Scientific Correspondence | Published:

Season of birth predicts mortality in rural Gambia

Naturevolume 388page434 (1997) | Download Citation



We present evidence that events in early life strongly influence the adult survival prospects of rural Africans. Our analysis of births and deaths in three Gambian villages dating back to 1949 shows that people born during the annual ‘hungry season’ are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely in young adulthood. A permanent effect of malnutrition on the development of the immune system during fetal growth seems a likely explanation.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Prentice, A. M., Whitehead, R. G., Roberts, S. B. & Paul, A. A. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 34,2790–2799(1981).

  2. 2

    Cole, T. J. in Seasonality and Human Ecology (eds Ulijaszek, S. J. & Strickland, S. S.) 89-106 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993).

  3. 3

    Ceesay, S. M. et al. (in the press).

  4. 4

    Billewicz, W. Z. & McGregor, I. A. J. Biosoc. Sci. 13,219–240(1981).

  5. 5

    Barker, D. J. P. Mothers, Babies and Diseases in Later Life (BMJ Publishing Group, London, 1994).

  6. 6

    Aaby, P., Andersen, M. & Knudsen, K. Int. J. Epidemiol. 22,156–162(1993).

  7. 7

    Chandra, R. K. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 52,77–84(1993).

  8. 8

    Beisel, W. R. J. Nutr. 122,591–596(1992).

  9. 9

    Chandra, R. K. Lancet ii,1393-1394 (1974).

  10. 10

    Winnick, M. Pediatrics 47,969–978(1971).

  11. 11

    Beach, R. S., Gershwin, M. E. & Hurley, L. S. Science 218,469–471(1982).

Download references

Author information


  1. MRC Dunn Nutrition Unit, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2DH, UK

    • Sophie E. Moore
    • , Timothy J. Cole
    • , Elizabeth M. E. Poskitt
    • , Bakary J. Sonko
    • , Roger G. Whitehead
    • , Ian A. McGregor
    •  & Andrew M. Prentice
  2. MRC Dunn Nutrition Unit, PO Box 273, Fajara, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa

    • Sophie E. Moore
    • , Timothy J. Cole
    • , Elizabeth M. E. Poskitt
    • , Bakary J. Sonko
    • , Roger G. Whitehead
    • , Ian A. McGregor
    •  & Andrew M. Prentice


  1. Search for Sophie E. Moore in:

  2. Search for Timothy J. Cole in:

  3. Search for Elizabeth M. E. Poskitt in:

  4. Search for Bakary J. Sonko in:

  5. Search for Roger G. Whitehead in:

  6. Search for Ian A. McGregor in:

  7. Search for Andrew M. Prentice in:

About this article

Publication history

Issue Date


Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.