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Stephan, Anna-Janina; Strobl, Ralf; Schwettmann, Lars; Meisinger, Christa; Ladwig, Karl-Heinz; Linkohr, Birgit; Thorand, Barbara; Peters, Annette and Grill, Eva (2019): Being born in the aftermath of World War II increases the risk for health deficit accumulation in older age: results from the KORA-Age study. In: European Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 34: pp. 675-687

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Morbidity trends may result from cohort experiences in critical developmental age. Our objective was to compare the health status of 65-71 year-olds who were in critical developmental age before (1937-June 1945), during (June 1945-June 1948) and after (June 1948-1950) the early reconstruction and food crisis (ERFC) period in Germany following World War II. Data originate from the KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg)-Age study in Southern Germany. We used the 2008 baseline sample born 1937-1943 and the 2015 enrichment sample born 1944-1950. Health status was assessed as the number of accumulated health deficits using a Frailty Index (FI). Cohorts were defined based on co-occurrence of critical developmental age (gestation and the first 2 years of life) and the ERFC period. Cohort, age and sex effects on older-age health status were analyzed using generalized linear models. We included 590 (53 male) pre-war and war (PWW), 475 (51 male) ERFC and 171 post-currency reform (PCR) cohort participants (46 male). Adjusted for covariates, FI levels were significantly higher for the ERFC (Ratio 1.14, CL 1.06, 1.23) but not for the PCR (Ratio 1.06, CL 0.94, 1.20) as compared to the PWW cohort. Being in critical developmental age during the ERFC period increased FI levels in adults aged 65-71 years. Covariates did not explain these effects, suggesting a direct detrimental effect from being in critical developmental age during the ERFC period on older-age health. This expansion of morbidity in Germany was not detected in the PCR cohort.

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