May 08, 2018 | News | Suessmilch Lecture

Rotten childhood: Adult mortality effects of early life adversity

Delicate baby cuddling up to his mother. Early life conditions influence adult mortality. © Tobilander /

On May 15 Ken Smith from the University of Utah will give a Süßmilch lecture on adult mortality effects of early life adversity using the Utah Population Database.

What is the talk about?

Ken Smith will describe the Early Life Conditions, Survival and Health (ELCS) Project, its use and expansion of the Utah Population Database that holds vast population-based data, and selected results that quantify the association between early adversities and their association with premature death, suicide and Alzheimer’s Disease risk.

The Utah Population Database is one of the world’s largest resources that link individual-level genealogical, medical and demographic records.

It is well known that circumstances early in childhood (and early adulthood) can have lasting effects on life chances and mortality risks later in life. Much of the work in these life-course studies depends on adult recollections of childhood circumstances measured from survey samples.

A distinct approach is to amass official administrative, demographic, genealogical, and medical records for an entire population spanning many decades to characterize early life conditions and their association with all-cause adult mortality but also critical outcomes including suicide and Alzheimer’s Disease.


About the speaker

Ken Smith is a biodemographer and Distinguished Professor of Family Studies and Population Science at the University of Utah. He is also a Huntsman Cancer Institute Investigator and Director of the Pedigree and Population Program at the University of Utah that develops and maintains the Utah Population Database.

He has long-standing interests in familial aspects of health, aging and longevity. Currently he is investigating the socio-environmental and genetic origins of aging in humans and exceptional longevity in families.

His current work includes a focus on the role of early life events in affecting the life chances and health outcomes of middle aged and older adults. His other key research interests focus on genetic, psychosocial and behavioral factors in cancer prevention and control and the effects of family, community, and socioeconomic factors affecting health outcomes, obesity, mortality, and longevity of individuals.

Time and Venue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 3 p.m., in room 005.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.