The Changing Health of Thalidomide Survivors as they Age: A scoping review

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Background: In the late 1950s and early 1960s the drug Thalidomide was given to thousands of pregnant women across the world to relieve morning sickness. The drug caused severe birth defects. Much has been written about the drug, its teratogenic effects, and the nature of the damage it caused. There is however, little literature exploring ageing with Thalidomide damage. Objectives: The aim of the review was to bring together, for the first time, the evidence about the Thalidomide-related health problems Thalidomide survivors are experiencing, as they grow older. Methods: A systematised review of published and grey literature, in which grounded theory provided a heuristic for the evidence synthesis. Results: Twenty-five relevant papers were found. They included biomedical papers focusing on specific health problems, alongside surveys and mixed method accounts exploring the health of Thalidomide survivors. Most studies had physical health as their primary focus. Conclusions: The two most frequently reported groups of health problems were musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. There was little discussion about the social consequences of secondary damage being layered onto lifelong impairments or of the implications of co-morbidities. Future research needs a stronger connection to more social models of disability and critical disability studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-191
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number2
Early online date28 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

© Elsevier B.V. Ltd, 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Aging
  • Health
  • Lifelong disability
  • Thalidomide

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