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AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: In women, higher parity has been associated with increased risk of diabetes later in life. It is unclear, however, whether this association is mainly due to biological effects of childbearing, or to socioeconomic and lifestyle factors associated with childrearing. We assessed the association between number of children and diabetes risk separately in women and men. METHODS: Between 2004 and 2008, the nationwide China Kadoorie Biobank recruited 0.5 million individuals aged 30-79 (mean 51 years) from ten diverse regions across China. During 7 years of follow-up, 8,840 incident cases of diabetes were recorded among 463,347 participants without prior cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. Multivariable Cox regression yielded sex-specific HRs and 95% CIs for incident diabetes by number of children. RESULTS: Overall, ∼98% of all participants had children. In women, there was a J-shaped association between number of children and risk of diabetes. Compared with women with one child, the adjusted HRs for diabetes were 1.39 (95% CI 1.11, 1.73) for childless women, 1.12 (95% CI 1.07, 1.18) for those with two children, 1.23 (95% CI 1.16, 1.31) for those with three children, and 1.32 (95% CI 1.21, 1.44) for those with four or more children. In men, there was a similar association with risk of diabetes; the corresponding HRs were 1.28 (95% CI 1.02, 1.60), 1.19 (95% CI 1.12, 1.26), 1.32 (95% CI 1.21, 1.44) and 1.41 (95% CI 1.24, 1.60), respectively. In both sexes, the findings were broadly similar in different population subgroups. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: The similarity between women and men in the association between number of children and risk of diabetes suggests that parenthood is most likely to affect diabetes risk through factors associated with childrearing rather than via biological effects of childbearing.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1675 - 1682


Children, China, Diabetes, Men, Parenthood, Women, Adult, Aged, China, Diabetes Mellitus, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Parents, Parity, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors