Preterm babies have greater risk of severe psychiatric conditions as adults, study finds

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 04 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3922
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

Babies born prematurely are at significantly greater risk of a range of severe psychiatric disorders as adults, one of the largest studies to look at the effects of birth complications on mental health has found.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry,1 found that babies born very preterm (<32 weeks) were most at risk of being hospitalised as adults for psychiatric conditions, in comparison with those born at term. Hazard ratios for hospitalisation in this group were 7.4 (95% confidence interval 2.7 to 20.6) for bipolar disorder, 2.9 for depression (1.8 to 4.6), 2.5 for psychosis (1 to 6), and 3.5 for eating disorders (1.3 to 9.6).

Babies born moderately preterm (32 to 36 weeks) were found to have a smaller but still significantly greater risk of hospitalisation for …

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