Spatial epidemiology of gestational age and birth weight in Switzerland: census-based linkage study.

Skrivankova, Veronika; Zwahlen, Marcel; Adams, Mark; Low, Nicola; Kuehni, Claudia; Egger, Matthias (2019). Spatial epidemiology of gestational age and birth weight in Switzerland: census-based linkage study. BMJ open, 9(10), e027834. BMJ Publishing Group 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027834

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Gestational age and birth weight are strong predictors of infant morbidity and mortality. Understanding spatial variation can inform policies to reduce health inequalities. We examined small-area variation in gestational age and birth weight in Switzerland.


All singleton live births recorded in the Swiss Live Birth Register 2011 to 2014 were eligible. We deterministically linked the Live Birth Register with census and survey data to create data sets including neonatal and pregnancy-related variables, parental characteristics and geographical variables. We produced maps of 705 areas and fitted linear mixed-effect models to assess to what extent spatial variation was explained by these variables.


We analysed all 315 177 eligible live births. Area-level averages of gestational age varied between 272 and 279 days, and between 3138 and 3467 g for birth weight. The fully adjusted models explained 31% and 87% of spatial variation of gestational age and birth weight, respectively. Language region accounted for most of the explained variation (23% in gestational age and 62% in birth weight), with shorter gestational age (-0.6 days and -0.9 days) and lower birth weight (-1.1% and -1.8%) in French-speaking and Italian-speaking areas, respectively, compared with German-speaking areas. Other variables explaining variation were, for gestational age, the level of urbanisation (10%) and parental nationality (3%). For birth weight, they were gestational age (27%), parental nationality (27%), civil status (10%) and altitude (10%). In a random sample of 81 968 live births with data on parental education, levels of education were only weakly associated with gestational age (-0.9 days for compulsory vs tertiary maternal education) or birth weight (-0.7% for compulsory vs tertiary maternal education).


In Switzerland, small area variation in birth weight is largely explained, and variation in gestational age partially explained, by geocultural, sociodemographic and pregnancy factors.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Paediatric Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Whitesell, Veronika, Zwahlen, Marcel, Low, Nicola, Kühni, Claudia, Egger, Matthias


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BMJ Publishing Group


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Anette van Dorland

Date Deposited:

05 Nov 2019 16:20

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:31

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Switzerland birth weight education gestational age socio-economic position spatial epidemiology




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