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Very low birthweight: Dysregulated gestation versus evolutionary adaptation
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2014 (English)In: Social Science and Medicine, ISSN 0277-9536, E-ISSN 1873-5347, Vol. 108, 237-242 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Much medical literature attributes persistently high rates of very low birthweight (VLBW) to "dysregulated" gestation. We offer the alternative view that natural selection conserved well-regulated, though nonconscious, decisional biology that protects the reproductive fitness of women by spontaneously aborting gestations that would otherwise yield frail infants, particularly small males. Modern obstetric practice, however, converts some fraction of these erstwhile spontaneous abortions into live births of very small infants. We further propose that the nonconscious decisional biology of gestation exhibits preferences also seen in consciously made decisions. We hypothesize that the incidence of VLBW among male infants should vary with the population's self-reported intentions to assume financial risk. We apply time-series modeling to monthly birth counts by sex and weight from the Swedish Medical Birth Registry between January 1993 and December 2010. We gauge risk aversion with monthly data from the Micro Index of the Swedish Consumer Tendency Survey (MISCT). Consistent with our argument that nonconscious decisional biology shares risk aversion with conscious decisions, we find that the incidence of VLBW among male infants in Sweden varies with the population's self-reported intentions to assume financial risk. We find increases above expected odds of a very low weight infant among males born 1 month after increases above expected levels of self-reported risk aversion in the Swedish population. We offer this finding as support for the argument that persistently high rates of VLBW arise, at least in part, from a combination of medical interventions and mechanisms conserved by natural selection to protect reproductive fitness. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 108, 237-242 p.
Keyword [en]
Very low birthweight, Perinatal health, Risk aversion, Selection in utero, Decision-making, Economy, Sweden
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-227878DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.050ISI: 000336109700027OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-227878DiVA: diva2:731796
Available from: 2014-07-02 Created: 2014-07-01 Last updated: 2016-05-02Bibliographically approved

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Hartig, Terry
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Institute for Housing and Urban Research
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