Lower grades in high school may be linked to being born prematurely - study

Researchers analyzed data of siblings born in Denmark between 1986 and 2003 in the study, of which 1.2 million were born during this period, of which nearly 800 thousand had at least one sibling.

 Illustrative photo of a premature birth (photo credit: Israel Midwives Organization)
Illustrative photo of a premature birth
(photo credit: Israel Midwives Organization)

A teenager in high school who receives lower or below-average grades in math, history or other subjects is more likely to have been born prematurely, according to a recent study.

Being more prematurely means being born between 34-39 weeks of pregnancy.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal The BMJ last week, looked at a large Danish population for reference. However, researchers of the study acknowledge social circumstances heavily influence a student's learning capability, and also that the study found no substantial difference in babies born at 40 weeks and those born between 34-39 weeks. However, those born before 34 weeks showed "substantial deficits in multiple cognitive domains," the study says.

Researchers analyzed data of siblings born in Denmark between 1986 and 2003 in the study, of which 1.2 million were born during this period, of which nearly 800 thousand had at least one sibling. Researchers also looked at their test results in math, language (in this case would be Danish) as well as those who took the intelligence test for military conscription.

The military conscription intelligence test is mandatory for all Danish men above the age of 18 with the exception of a few exemptions for personal or medical reasons.

‘NUMEROUS STUDIES confirm that students who study a foreign language demonstrate cognitive advantages over students who do not.’ (credit: REUTERS)‘NUMEROUS STUDIES confirm that students who study a foreign language demonstrate cognitive advantages over students who do not.’ (credit: REUTERS)

The study's results

About 5.6% of the 800 thousand children were born at 37 weeks, but only those born before 34 weeks in that group had poorer math scores than those born at 40 weeks.

Children born pre-27 weeks showed to have weaker scores in language.

This data was recorded after taking other factors into account, such as their sex, birth weight, malformations, parental age at birth, parental educational level, and number of older siblings.

Researchers of the study warn parents of children who were born prematurely regarding their cognitive abilities, but also stated that any differences would not be very substantial.