Children born prematurely do worse at school and earn less as adults than those born at full term, a study found.

By their 40s, adults born prematurely were more likely to have below average incomes and work in manual jobs, data showed.

A team led by Professor Dieter Wolke, of the University of Warwick, looked at studies in Britain, Germany and Ireland that tracked children over their lifetimes.

Premature babies - born before 37 weeks - make up 7 per cent of UK births.


The number has risen in recent decades, and infants born as early as 17 weeks can now survive.

Overall, the study found children born early had worse reading and maths skills than other pupils at primary school. But a 'significant decline' in IQ and maths was most apparent in those born 'moderately pre-term' - at 33 weeks or less. The downward trend continued for those born earlier.

The report suggested premature children should receive extra support at school.

A third of those born pre-term were in a manual job at age 42 compared to a quarter of those born at full term. Almost 58 per cent of premature adults had a below-average household income at this age, compared with 49.1 per cent of those not born

And of adults born early, 15.5 per cent owned a home at age 42 compared with 22.3 per cent of their full-term counterparts.