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Epidemiological Study (cohort study)

Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioral problems in children. epidemiol.

By: Divan HA, Kheifets L, Obel C, Olsen J
Published in: Epidemiology 2008; 19 (4): 523 - 529 (PubMed | Journal website)

Aim of study (according to author)
The association of cell phone use during pregnancy and during early childhood with behavioral problems in children was investigated in a cohort study in Denmark.
Background/further details:
Behavioral problems in 7-year old children were assessed using the Strenghts and Difficulties Questionnaire. Prenatal exposure was defined as the use of a cellular phone by the mother during the pregnancy, postnatal exposure was defined as the current use of cell phones by the children.

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Estimate of incidence by odds ratio (OR)


groups of exposure:

Reference group 1:  no prenatal exposure 
group 2:  prenatal exposure 
Reference group 3:  no postnatal exposure 
group 4:  postnatal exposure 
Reference group 5:  no prenatal and postnatal exposure 
group 6:  prenatal and postnatal exposure 
Reference group 7:  prenatal exposure, times spoken per day: 0 - 1 
group 8:  prenatal exposure, times spoken per day: 2 - 3 
group 9:  prenatal exposure, times spoken per day: ≥ 4 
Reference group 10:  prenatal exposure, percentage of time turned on: 0 
group 11:  prenatal exposure, percentage of time turned on: < 50 
group 12:  prenatal exposure, percentage of time turned on: 50 - 99 
group 13:  prenatal exposure, percentage of time turned on: 100 

Study group: children and children with exposure in utero at the age of 7 years
Group characteristics: cohort of mothers and newborns, born between 1997 and 1999, follow-up at the age of 7 years
Observation period: November 2006
Study location: Denmark
Source of data: Danish National Birth Cohort

Further parameters acquired by questionnaire (social conditions, family lifestyle, diseases in childhood)

Study size i cohort 
number participating 13,159
rate of participating 65%

Statistical analysis using logistic regression (adjusted for sex, socioeconomic status, mother's age, mother's psychiatric history, and smoking during pregnancy)

Results/conclusion (according to author)
About 11 % of the children were prenatally and postnatally exposed to cell phones whereas nearly half of the children had neither prenatal nor postnatal exposure. About 90 % of the children were reported to have no behavioral problems.
Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phones was associated with overall behavioral problems in children (OR 1.80; CI 1.45-2.23). The authors concluded that these results should be interpreted with caution. The observed association are not necessarily causal and may be due to factors not investigated in this study.

(Study character: epidemiological study, cohort study)

Study funded by

Published comments on this article:Related articles i
Glossary: behavioral, cell phones, cellular, children, CI, cohort, cohort study, current, digital, diseases, emotional, epidemiological, exposed, exposure, follow-up, hyperactivity, incidence, in utero, logistic regression, mobile communication, OR, postnatal, pregnancy, prenatal, psychiatric, questionnaire, socioeconomic status, statistical
Exposure: mobile communication system, digital mobile phone, personal exposure

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