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A new research project to examine the impact of prenatal and childhood environmental factors on subsequent mental well-being

A new research project to examine the impact of prenatal and childhood environmental factors on subsequent mental well-being

Enabled by a project grant worth EUR 190,000 awarded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, researcher Kati Heinonen-Tuomaala will launch a new project entitled Aetiology of mental and behavioural disorders: Exposure to adverse prenatal and childhood environments. Heinonen-Tuomaala belongs to a research developmental psychology group at the Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki.

The project is part of a larger cohort study begun by Professor Johan Eriksson (Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, and National Public Health Institute) that followed the growth and development of over 10,000 Finnish men and women from birth to late adulthood. Birth size and the gestation length have been considered indicators of environmental circumstances during the prenatal period, and the first aim of the project is to study whether these two have an impact on subsequent mental well-being. A second aim is to investigate the implications of a mother's stress during pregnancy for a person's mental well-being later in life; some of the subjects of the cohort study were exposed to maternal prenatal stress during the Second World War. The project will furthermore study whether childhood separation from parents affects mental well-being. The cohort study includes people who were sent to Sweden or Denmark as war children for a period of time.

The project will produce new knowledge about the significance of prenatal and childhood experiences for mental well-being. The material used in the project is unique both historically and globally.

Niina Haasola | alfa
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