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Premature babies and mental illness

Identifier

006799

Type of Spiritual Experience

None

Background

A background paper showing the link between being born premature, and the various mental effects it can cause.  The article is negative, with little emphasis given on the fact that having a differently configured brain can at times be useful, but the link is interesting.

A description of the experience

Premature babies more likely to suffer mental disorders as adults - Babies born early are significantly more likely to suffer serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, in later life, a study has found. By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent  1:00PM BST 02 Jun 2012

Very premature babies have more than twice the normal chance of developing schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis. Their risk of bipolar disorder is increased more than seven-fold, while the chances of developing major depression and eating disorders are raised 2.9 and 3.5 times.

Experts stressed that the chances of a premature baby having a serious psychiatric problem remain small. Rates of hospitalisation for psychosis are raised from two in 1,000 to around four in 1,000. Babies born between 32 to 36 weeks also had an increased risk of mental health disorders, though to a lesser extent.

The chance of psychosis was raised 1.6 times, of bipolar disorder 2.7 times, and of serious depression 1.3 times.

Researchers believe the pattern is due to the impact of being born prematurely on early brain development. However, it is not clear why some children are affected and others are not. Premature babies are also far more prone to developmental problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder and autism.

The vast majority of pre-term babies turn out healthy and normal [sic] - famous examples include Sir Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

The new research, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is based on a study of almost 1.5 million Swedish birth and medical records from 1973 and 1985. Every child admitted to hospital with a first episode of a psychiatric disorder by 2002 was identified.

Dr Chiara Nosarti, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said: "We found a very strong link between premature birth and a range of psychiatric disorders. Since we considered only the most severe cases that resulted in hospitalisation, it may be that in real terms this link is even stronger. However, it is important to remember that even with the increased risk, these disorders still only affect 1 per cent to 6 per cent of the population."

An estimated one in 13 children are born prematurely in the UK each year. As a group, they are more likely than other children to require extra school support and to suffer a range of physical problems. Dr Nosarti added: "We believe that the increased risk of mental disorders in those born very prematurely can be explained by subtle changes in brain development. The immature nervous system in those born prematurely is particularly vulnerable to neonatal brain injury resulting from birth complications."

Researchers said at risk children should be screened at the age of five and again when they were older to check for potential problems.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References