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Reproduction, partner disruption and health - project description

Published Updated

The main aim of the project is to understand the health consequences of changes in fertility patterns and partner disruption.



The purpose of this project is to understand how people's family situation affects their health.

We will study health consequences

In the last few decades we have witnessed marked fertility and family changes in rich countries. These include increasing age at childbearing, a lower number of children born to each woman or man, greater use of assisted reproductive technology, higher frequency of family disruptions, and increasingly complex family structures. The main aim of the project is to understand the health consequences of changes in fertility patterns and partner disruption.

For example, we are interested in the health consequences of being childless or having only one child, which is increasingly more common. Do these groups receive less help and support in old age, and thus have poorer health and die earlier? Are women more affected by the number of children than men because their lifestyle is more influenced by the responsibility of care, or because there are biological effects of undergoing a pregnancy? Already conducted studies suggest that there may be some protective effects of having been pregnant or having given birth to a relatively large number of children - or having had their first child at a young age. On the other hand, there is also an increased risk of certain diseases due to pregnancies.

The number of children the parents have and their age when they have them can also have consequences for the children's health. For example, having fairly old parents - something that has become more common in recent decades - can affect children through genetic or other biological mechanisms. In addition, there may be "social" effects. Among other things, older parents tend to have more resources than younger ones and can be more mature. In poor countries, the main concern has been that a short distance between the children can be a great burden for the children, for both biological and social reasons. There is disagreement about how much this means in rich countries with a good nutritional situation and advanced health services.

A related topic is the importance of family stability. How are adults affected by living in a bad relationship, and how are the children affected? What are the consequences of dissolving that relationship? The causal chains can be complex. For example, a woman who suffers from mental health problems due to a particularly painful breakup (even though she might have felt even worse if she had stayed in the relationship), may find it extra difficult to follow up the children. Thus, they can also be particularly strongly affected by the break-up, initially perhaps with mental reactions and problems at school, and then a possibly shortened education can lead to lower income and ultimately poorer mental and physical health in the long term. In a previous study, we also saw that the age of children in a divorce matter. The youngest are at greater risk than the older ones of suffering from depression in young adult years. A final example is that those who are married have a better chance of surviving after a cancer diagnosis than divorced and unmarried people who have cancer in the same organ and discovered at the same stage. We have observed this in our own previous research. Is this pattern due to the fact that the married have fewer other diseases at the same time? Or is it because they get a better treatment offer and are able to make better use of the treatment. Or do they get more help at home to deal with the disease?

The results of our research will be published in scientific journals and disseminated on our website and in various scientific and popular science lectures and presentations.


The project has been approved by the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REC South East) - reference numbers 2018/434 and 9220. The project has carried out a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) which has been approved by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The whole Norwegian population is included in the study

The study population is the entire Norwegian population, ie everyone who has lived in Norway after 1964 and who has a personal identification number (fødselsnummer). We get the information from various registers and surveys that have been carried out. The participants in the health surveys have given their prior consent to the purposes of the project. No one will be contacted by the project.

All personally identifiable information, such as name and personal identification number, is removed so that researchers working with the data material do not have access to personally identifiable data. The research data in the project are stored at the Services for Sensitive Data (TSD) at the University of Oslo. TSD meets the law's strict requirements for the processing and storage of sensitive research data.

Researchers at the Centre for Fertility and Health perform analyzes of the data material in collaboration with researchers at our Norwegian and foreign collaborating institutions.


Privacy is about safeguarding the interests of both individuals and society. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is devoted to safeguard privacy in all parts of our activities. You can find our privacy statement, and information about the right to access, correct and delete health information on the theme page on privacy and health data.

Data sources

The project uses socio-demographic information and health information from a number of registers and health surveys.


  • Statistics Norway (Socioeconomic information, including population, housing conditions, education, income, wealth, taxes, labour market, welfare benefits)
  • Norwegian Cause of Death Registry
  • Cancer Registry of Norway
  • Medical Birth Registry of Norway
  • Norwegian Armed Forces Health Registry
  • Norwegian Patient Registry
  • Control and Payment of Health Refunds (KUHR)
  • Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV)
  • Historical Population Register

Health surveys

  • The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa)
  • Cohort of Norway (CONOR)
  • The Norwegian Twin Registry
  • The Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT)
See the full project description at Cristin for more information about results, researchers, contact information etc.

Project participants

Project leader

Per Magnus, Norwegian Institute of Public Health










Regional committees for medical and health research ethics

Project owner/ Project manager

Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Project manager

Per Minor Magnus