PremLife: Life Course Dynamics after Preterm Birth – Protective Factors for Social and Educational Transitions, Health, and Prosperity

About the project

PremLife investigates protective and resilience factors that help preterm born children to achieve better life outcomes across the lifespan. To identify the protective and resilience factors among preterm born children the PremLife team is conducting hypothesis-driven research that focuses on: (1) academic skills; (2) personality characteristics; (3) family and social context features; and (4) macro-level characteristics (including differences in the societal contexts between countries and epochs). Further, PremLife investigates (5) whether parental stress increases the likelihood of preterm birth; and (6) what role preterm birth plays in intergenerational transmission of social inequality.

Research methods and datasets

The PremLife team has established research method specifications regarding variable selection, data harmonisation, and data analysis across the PremLife study cohorts. The datasets that have been included in conjoint analyses (e.g. Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis) are eight cohort studies from: Finland (Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults HeSVA and Arvo Ylppö Longitudinal Study AYLS), Germany (Bavarian Longitudinal Study BLS), Switzerland (Basel Study of Preterm Children BSPC), and the UK (1958 National Child Development Study NCDS; British Cohort Study BCS; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children ALSPAC; and Millennium Cohort Study MCS). Further, two panel studies from Germany (German Socio-Economic Panel SOEP) and the UK (British Household Panel Study/Understanding Society BHPS) as well as data from the National, Social, and Health Registers from Finland are being analysed. Harmonisation of these panel studies and data linkage of the National, Social, and Health Registers from Finland have been completed to enable the investigation of the role of preterm birth in intergenerational transmission of socio-economic inequality as well as the detection of potential resilience factors for those born preterm.

First results

First results show that adolescents and young adults born preterm do not differ from their term born counterparts in positive characteristics such as optimism, self-esteem, and psychological wellbeing while higher levels of pessimism and more problems with peers are found in those born preterm. Physical activity has been found as a promotive factor improving wellbeing and mental health for both preterm and term born adolescents in a similar way. Stress during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of preterm birth and preterm birth itself is a factor associated with increased downward social mobility.

The findings of the project will be widely disseminated to improve policies affecting preterm children’s well-being. First meetings with stakeholder groups to inform and shape the research have taken place and a detailed dissemination plan is being prepared. Audiences will include parental support groups, charities, governmental agencies and policy makers, medical trade unions, and teachers’ unions and associations. After scientific publication, dissemination will also include press releases of published results to the popular press, blog posts, dissemination of factsheets, infographics, video interviews, podcasts for social media websites, posted on the PremLife website and on social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as policy workshops for Stakeholders.


Project links

Research team

Dr S. Lemola
University of Warwick

Prof. K. Räikkönen
University of Helsinki

Prof. D.D. Schnitzlein

Dr E. Kajantie
National Institute for Health and Welfare