Correlations between Psychiatric Health and Low Birth Weight

CADDAC National Director

A new study researching how individuals with low birth weights were impacted found that they had decreased chances of developing alcohol and substance use disorders later in life but an increased chance of developing other psychiatric problems. Funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), the study followed children into their 30s and found that they were 3 times less likely to develop alcohol or substance abuse issues, but 2.5 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Those born at an extremely low birth weight who received a full course of life saving steroids were nearly 4.5 times more likely to experience psychiatric problems.

Researchers feel that this information will increase awareness amongst parents and medical professionals and allow them to screen and assess for these disorders earlier. Of course it has been known for some time that premature babies have a higher incidence of ADHD, the new information about anxiety and depression is interesting. It would be interesting to find out how many of these adults who were diagnosed with ADHD also had comorbid anxiety and depression since these disorders frequently coexist in the adult ADHD population.

Because only 84 adults were followed all the way into their thirties, this is considered a small study; additionally, factors such as DNA and environment were not controlled and so a larger scale study would need to be completed before any definitive results could be reported.

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