Group Eriksson

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

The concept of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) has provided new insights into the early origins of health and disease from a life course perspective. According to the DOHaD hypothesis non-optimal early life conditions are associated with an increased risk for several non-communicable diseases.

The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (HBCS) has primarily been focusing on the importance of factors active in early life and their effect on later health in two study cohorts including 20,431 people born 1924-44. Our main study cohort consists of 13345 people born 1934-44 in Helsinki. The cohort is a longitudinal study cohort with data throughout the life span including prenatal life, early childhood and later life. Besides extensive epidemiological data over 2000 subjects have been randomly selected for a clinical part. The subjects have been followed up clinically for over two decades with extensive phenotypic data available including metabolic data, dietary information as well as other lifestyle data. Psychological factors including personality, depression and anxiety has been focused upon. A GWAS has been performed on the HBCS. One primary aim of HBCS is to assess how growth and environmental factors acting during early life are related to health in adult life. Besides taking into account early life factors, socioeconomic and adult lifestyle factors are also considered, as well as genetic factors. In other words, health and disease are focused upon from a life course perspective. Our particular focus has been to study the early life origins of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, cognitive function, psychological and behavioral outcomes as well as aging-related processes. As the study cohort is aging our more recent focus has been on healthy aging and healthy longevity from a life course perspective.

To summarise, we have shown that early growth patterns are associated with several health outcomes including coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as mental health outcomes. The long-term health impact of maternal adiposity during pregnancy has also been studied. We have been assessing potential underlying factors explaining the described associations and these include genetic and epigenetic factors. Several non-communicable diseases have their origins in early life therefore optimizing the health of women of reproductive age will have positive consequences for their offspring. One overview of findings in HBCS over the past 20 years has been published in Annals of Medicine 2016 Sep;48(6):456-467. There are over 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications based on findings from HBCS and the study is still ongoing. Our findings have attracted great global interest from agencies including WHO and NIH and been including in several recommendations.

Morbidity in Finnish Caregivers

A recently initiated project Morbidity in Finnish Caregivers, led by Senior Researcher Tuija Mikkola, studies somatic and psychiatric morbidity in family caregivers. The project utilizes data from several national registers to examine whether family caregivers have an elevated risk for developing physical and mental illnesses. The data comprises all officially recognized family caregivers in Finland, that is more than 40 000 family caregivers, and over 80 000 controls.

The LoWe spring study

Our focus in the LoWe spring study (Long-term consequences of gestational glucose intolerance on Women’s and offspring’s health) is to study the associations between gestational glucose intolerance and women’s and their offspring’s later health.

The more specific aims of this study are to investigate 1) if there are differences between women with and without gestational diabetes in pre-gestational health and health later on in life, 2) what is the importance of fasting and post challenge glucose concentrations during a standard oral glucose tolerance test on prediction of type 2 diabetes, and 3) are there differences between the offspring of women with and without gestational diabetes in relation to birth complications or later health.

The study cohort consists of all women from the city of Vantaa, Finland, who delivered between 1-January-2009 and 31-December-2015 and the offspring of these pregnancies. In total, there are over 30 000 study participants. The long-term follow-up will end 31-December-2031 when the youngest offspring turn 16 years of age.


Maternal type 1 diabetes (T1D) increases the risk for pregnancy and birth complications and offspring risk for adverse health outcomes. In pregnancies complicated with T1D, high erythropoietin concentrations in amniotic fluid and fetal plasma reflecting fetal oxygen deficiency may explain adverse health outcomes among the offspring. In 2017, we initiated the study: Developmental origins of adult health in offspring of mothers with type 1 diabetes (DeMoD).

Our aim is to investigate:

1. Whether high erythropoietin concentrations in amniotic fluid and fetal plasma among the offspring of women with T1D are associated with offspring health 18-23 years later. The study cohort consists of the offspring born to women with T1D and with measured erythropoietin concentration (n=273) and their matched controls (n=273). The study subjects will be studied clinically (physical examination, health questionnaires, blood and urinary samples, ECG, pulse wave velocity, measurements of advanced glycation end products, actigraphy, and cognitive tests). 

2. Whether there are differences in health outcomes, based on national healthcare registry data, between the offspring of women with T1D (n=1762) compared with matched offspring of women without T1D (n=8810) during a 16-year follow-up.

The HBCS Study

Senior Scientists

Mikaela von Bonsdorff, associate professor, PhD

Hannu Kautiainen, biostatistician

Merja Laine, associate professor, DMSc

Tuija Mikkola, associate professor, administrative leader

Minna Salonen, PhD

Niko Wasenius, associate professor, PhD

Post-Doctoral Scientists

Markus Haapanen, MD, DMSc

Graduate Students

Jannica Selenius, MD

Max Åström, MD

Hanna Paulsen, OD

Jenni Ikonen, MD

Simo Rehunen, MD

Samuli Palmu, MD


Sigrid Rostén, data manager

Eriksson JG, Forsen T, Tuomilehto J, Winter PD, Osmond C, Barker DJ. Catch-up growth in childhood and death form coronary heart disease: longitudinal study. BMJ 1999;318:427-31

Eriksson JG, Forsén T, Tuomilehto J, Osmond C, Barker DJP. Early growth and coronary heart disease in later life: longitudinal study. BMJ 2001;322:949-53

Eriksson JG, Ylihärsilä H, Forsén T, Osmond C, Barker DJ. Exercise protects against glucose intolerance in individuals with a small body size at birth. Prev Med. 2004 Jul;39(1):164-7

Barker DJP, Osmond C, Forsen TJ, Kajantie E, Eriksson JG. Trajectories of growth among children who later have coronary event. New Engl J Med 2005; 353: 1802-9

Eriksson JG, Osmond C, Kajantie E, Forsén TJ, Barker DJ. Patterns of growth among children who later develop type 2 diabetes or its risk factors. Diabetologia. 2006 Dec;49(12):2853-8

Alastalo H, Raikkonen K, Pesonen AK, Osmond C, Barker DJ, Kajantie E, Heinonen K, Forsen TJ, Eriksson JG. Cardiovascular health of Finnish war evacuees 60 years later. Ann Med. 2009;41(1):66-72

Eriksson JG, Kajantie E, Osmond C, Thornburg K, Barker DJ. Boys live dangerously in the womb. Am J Hum Biol. 2010 May-Jun;22(3):330-5

Perälä MM, Moltchanova E, Kaartinen NE, Männistö S, Kajantie E, Osmond C, Barker DJ, Valsta LM, Eriksson JG. The association between salt intake and adult systolic blood pressure is modified by birth weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):422-6

Eriksson JG, Kajantie E, Lampl M, Osmond C, Barker DJ. Markers of biological fitness as predictors of all-cause mortality. Ann Med. 2013 Mar;45(2):156-61

Alastalo H, Räikkönen K, Pesonen AK, Osmond C, Barker DJ, Heinonen K, Kajantie E, Eriksson JG. Early life stress and blood pressure levels in late adulthood. J Hum Hypertens. 2013 Feb;27(2):90-4

Eriksson JG, Sandboge S, Salonen MK, Kajantie E, Osmond C. Long-term consequences of maternal overweight in pregnancy on offspring later health: Findings from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. Ann Med. 2014 Sep;46(6):434-8

Khulan B, Manning JR, Dunbar DR, Seckl JR, Raikkonen K, Eriksson JG, Drake AJ. Epigenomic profiling of men exposed to early-life stress reveals DNA methylation differences in association with current mental state. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Sep 23;4:e448

Locke AE et al. Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology. Nature. 2015 Feb 12;518(7538):197-206

Surakka I et al. The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels. Nat Genet. 2015 Jun;47(6):589-97

Guzzardi MA, Iozzo P, Salonen M, Kajantie E, Eriksson JG. Rate of telomere shortening and metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors: a longitudinal study in the 1934-44 Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. Ann Med. 2015;47(6):499-505

Eriksson JG. Developmental Origins of Health and Disease - from a small body size at birth to epigenetics. Ann Med. 2016 Sep;48(6):456-467

Gormley P et al. Meta-analysis of 375,000 individuals identifies 38 susceptibility loci for migraine. Nat Genet. 2016 Aug;48(8):856-66

Horikoshi M et al. Genome-wide associations for birth weight and correlations with adult disease. Nature. 2016 Oct 13;538(7624):248-252

Würtz P et al. Metabolic signatures of birthweight in 18 288 adolescents and adults. Int J Epidemiol. 2016 Oct;45(5):1539-1550

Eriksson JG, Guzzardi MA, Iozzo P, Kajantie E, Kautiainen H, Salonen MK. Higher serum phenylalanine concentration is associated with more rapid telomere shortening in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):144-150

Macé A et al. CNV-association meta-analysis in 191,161 European adults reveals new loci associated with anthropometric traits. Nat Commun. 2017 Sep 29;8(1):744

Eriksson JG, Salonen MK, Kajantie E, Osmond C. Prenatal Growth and CKD in Older Adults: Longitudinal Findings From the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, 1924-1944. Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Jan;71(1):20-26

von Bonsdorff MB, von Bonsdorff ME, Haanpää M, Salonen M, Mikkola TM, Kautiainen H, Eriksson JG. Work-loss years among people diagnosed with diabetes: a reappraisal from a life course perspective. Acta Diabetol. 2018 May;55(5):485-491

Westberg AP, Salonen MK, von Bonsdorff M, Osmond C, Kajantie E, Eriksson JG. Maternal adiposity in pregnancy and offspring asthma in adulthood. Eur Respir J. 2018 Aug 30;52(2):1801152

Mikkola TM, von Bonsdorff MB, Salonen MK, Kautiainen H, Ala-Mursula L, Solovieva S, Viikari-Juntura E, Eriksson JG. Physical heaviness of work and sitting at work as predictors of mortality: a 26-year follow-up of the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. BMJ Open. 2019 May 16;9(5):e026280

Zannas AS, Jia M, Hafner K, Baumert J, Wiechmann T, Pape JC, Arloth J, Ködel M, Martinelli S, Roitman M, Röh S, Haehle A, Emeny RT, Iurato S, Carrillo-Roa T, Lahti J, Räikkönen K, Eriksson JG, Drake AJ, Waldenberger M, Wahl S, Kunze S, Lucae S, Bradley B, Gieger C, Hausch F, Smith AK, Ressler KJ, Müller-Myhsok B, Ladwig KH, Rein T, Gassen NC, Binder EB. Epigenetic upregulation of FKBP5 by aging and stress contributes to NF-κB-driven inflammation and cardiovascular risk. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jun 4;116(23):11370-11379

Locke AE, Steinberg KM, Chiang CWK, Service SK, Havulinna AS, Stell L, Pirinen M, Abel HJ, Chiang CC, Fulton RS, Jackson AU, Kang CJ, Kanchi KL, Koboldt DC, Larson DE, Nelson J, Nicholas TJ, Pietilä A, Ramensky V, Ray D, Scott LJ, Stringham HM, Vangipurapu J, Welch R, Yajnik P, Yin X, Eriksson JG, Ala-Korpela M, Järvelin MR, Männikkö M, Laivuori H; FinnGen Project, Dutcher SK, Stitziel NO, Wilson RK, Hall IM, Sabatti C, Palotie A, Salomaa V, Laakso M, Ripatti S, Boehnke M, Freimer NB. Exome sequencing of Finnish isolates enhances rare-variant association power. Nature. 2019 Aug;572(7769):323-328

Clark DW et al. Associations of autozygosity with a broad range of human phenotypes. Nat Commun. 2019 Oct 31;10(1):4957

Bjerregaard LG, Wasenius N, Nedelec R, Gjærde LK, Ängquist L, Herzig KH, Jensen GB, Mortensen EL, Osler M, Overvad K, Skaaby T, Tjønneland A, Sørensen TIA, Järvelin MR, Eriksson JG, Sebert S, Baker JL. Possible Modifiers of the Association Between Change in Weight Status From Child Through Adult Ages and Later Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2020 May;43(5):1000-1007

Samfundet Folkhälsan

Academy of Finland

European Commission

Finska Läkaresällskapet (“Medical Society of Finland”)

Medicinska Understödsföreningen Liv och Hälsa (“Life and Health Medical Fund”)

Gyllenberg Foundation

Juho Vaino Foundation

The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland

Sture Andersson, Finland, Professor

Katri Räikkönen, Finland, Professor

Päivi Korhonen, Finland, Professor

Eero Kajantie, Finland, Professor

Aarno Palotie, Finland, Professor

Jari Lahti, Finland, Professor

Timo Strandberg, Finland, Professor

Pertti Tienari, Finland, Professor

Leif Groop, Finland, Professor

Peter Nilsson, Sweden, Professor

Thorkild Sörensen, Denmark, Professor


Gabriella Conti, UK, Professor

Clive Osmond, UK, Professor

Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, UK, Professor

Cyrus Cooper, UK, Professor

Keith Godfrey, UK, Professor

Tessa Roseboom, the Netherlands, Professor

Vincent Jaddoe, the Netherlands, Professor

Patricia Iozzo, Italy, Professor

Kent Thornburg, USA, Professor

Peter Gluckman, New Zealand, Professor

Mary Wlodeck, Australia, Professor

Michael Meaney, Canada, Professor

Patricia Silveira, Canada, Professor

Morbidity in Finnish Caregivers

Senior Researchers

Tuija Mikkola, PhD

Mikkola, T. M., Kautiainen, H., Mänty, M., von Bonsdorff, M. B., Kröger, T., & Eriksson, J. G. (2020). Age-dependency in mortality of family caregivers: a nationwide register-based study. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. DOI: 10.1007/s40520-020-01728-4

Mikkola, T. M., Kautiainen, H., Mänty, M., von Bonsdorff, M. B., Koponen, H., Kröger, T., & Eriksson, J. G. (2021). Use of antidepressants among Finnish family caregivers: a nationwide register-based study. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology. DOI: 10.1007/s00127-021-02049-1

Samfundet Folkhälsan

Medicinska Understödsföreningen Liv och Hälsa

Signe och Ane Gyllenberg stiftelse

Mikaela von Bonsdorff, assistant professor, University of Jyväskylä and Folkhälsan Research Center,

Teppo Kröger, professor, University of Jyväskylä

Minna Mänty, associate professor, City of Vantaa and University of Helsinki

Hannu Koponen, professor, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital

The LoWe spring study

Rönö K, Masalin S, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Eriksson JG, Laine MK. The impact of educational attainment on the occurrence of gestational diabetes mellitus in two successive pregnancies of Finnish primiparous women: a population-based cohort study.  Acta Diabetologica 2020, doi: 10.1007/s00592-020-01517-5


Laine MK, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG. Impact of sunshine on the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 2020, doi 10.1080/22423982.2019.1703882


Fältmarch S, Perttilä I, Tuomi U, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG, Laine MK. Use of opioids during pregnancy and effects on pregnancy outcomes. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf 2019;28:1239-1245


Masalin S, Laine MK, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Raina M, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG. Impact of maternal height and gestational diabetes mellitus on offspring birthweight. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2019;148:110-118


Masalin S, Rönö K, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Eriksson JG, Laine MK. Body surface area at birth and later risk for gestational diabetes mellitus among primiparous women. Acta Diabetol 2019;56:397-404

Laine MK, Masalin S, Rönö K, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG. Risk of preterm birth in primiparous women with exposure to antidepressant medication before pregnancy and/or during pregnancy – impact of body mass index. Ann Med 2019;51:51-57

Rönö K, Masalin S, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Raina M, Eriksson JG, Laine MK. Impact of maternal income on the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus in primiparous women. Diabet Med 2019;36:214-220


Laine MK, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Raina M, Aahos I, Järvinen K, Eriksson JG. Short primiparous women are at increased risk for gestational diabetes mellitus. Public Health 2018;156:101-108


Laine MK, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Raina M, Aahos I, Järvinen K, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG. Gestational diabetes in primiparous women – impact of age and adiposity: a register-based cohort study.

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2018;97:187-194

The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, Finland

Research Foundation for Primary Health Care, Finland  

Finska Läkaresällskapet

Johan Eriksson

Merja Laine

Hannu Kautiainen

Senja Masalin

Mika Gissler

Pirjo Pennanen

Marko Raina

Kristiina Rönö

Iiro Perttilä

Ulla Tuomi

Satu-Maarit Björkstedt

Ilkka Aahos

Kajsa Järvinen


Kari Teramo

Johan Eriksson

Merja Laine

Miira Klemetti

Hannu Kautiainen

Cedric Korpijaakko

The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, Finland

Finska Läkaresällskapet


    • Johan Eriksson

      MD, DMSc, Professor, Program Director

    • Tel:
      +358 40 501 6595

    • Contact person for the HBCS

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    • Tuija Mikkola

      PhD, Senior Researcher

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    • Contact person for the Caregivers study.

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    • Merja Laine

    • Contact person for the LoWe-Spring study and DeMod.

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