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Original Research: LUNG FUNCTION |

Childhood Respiratory Illness and Lung Function at Ages 14 and 50 Years: Childhood Respiratory Illness and Lung Function

Peter W. G. Tennant, MSc; G. John Gibson, MD; Louise Parker, PhD; Mark S. Pearce, PhD
Author and Funding Information

From the Institute of Health and Society (Mr Tennant and Dr Pearce), and the Institute of Cellular Medicine (Dr Gibson), Newcastle University; the Department of Respiratory Medicine (Dr Gibson), Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; and the Department of Medicine and the Department of Paediatrics (Dr Parker), Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada.

Correspondence to: Mark S. Pearce, PhD, Sir James Spence Institute, Newcastle University, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP, United Kingdom; e-mail: m.s.pearce@ncl.ac.uk


Funding/Support: This analysis was funded by the Newcastle Healthcare Charity.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2010;137(1):146-155. doi:10.1378/chest.09-0352
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Background:  Although childhood respiratory tract infections and low birth weight have both been associated with reduced adult lung function, little is known about the timing of these associations during life. We used data from the Newcastle Thousand Families Study to examine how these and other factors influenced FEV1 at age 14 years and between 14 and 49 to 51 years.

Methods:  Detailed information was collected prospectively during childhood. At age 14 years, 252 members of the cohort were recruited into a case-control study of respiratory health, which included measurement of FEV1. One hundred twenty-two of these were measured again at age 49 to 51 years. Linear regression models were used to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal influences on FEV1.

Results:  Lower height (P < .001), lower BMI (P < .001), being breast fed for less than 4 weeks (P = .028), childhood history of severe respiratory illness (P = .014), childhood history of asthma (P = .004), childhood history of TB (P = .023), and birth into a lower social class (P = .049) were all significant independent predictors of lower FEV1 at 14 years of age. Correspondingly, being a women (P < .001), and having a higher FEV1 at age 14 years (P < .001), a lower standardized birth weight (P = .025), a greater lifetime number of cigarettes smoked (P = .007), and a childhood history of severe respiratory illness (P = .047) were all independently associated with a greater decline (or a smaller increase) in FEV1 between age 14 and 49 to 51 years.

Conclusions:  This study suggests that the change in FEV1 between youth and middle age depends on several factors acting throughout life, including FEV1 in adolescence, sex, cigarette smoking, birth weight, and childhood respiratory health.

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