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Link between Premature Babies and Mental Illness

Children born pre-term have been found to experience over twice the rate of mental illness as compared to full-term, normal weight-for-age babies.

In a recent study at the University of Karolinska in Sweden, researchers noted in a long term study conducted over three decades that 5.5% of premature babies required admission to hospital for psychiatric related disorders compared to 2.9% of full-term babies.

The study involved premature babies born in the period 1973 to 1979 and followed their psychiatric health in the intervening decades using medical records. In order to adjust for pre-existing precursors of mental illness, statistical adjustments were made for mental illness predictors such as family history of mental illness and low socio-economic status.

The study has highlighted a casual link between the occurrence of premature births and various forms of mental illness. This knowledge has profound importance on the way mothers of premature babies and the premature babies themselves should be cared for, both during the immediate post birth period and through medical follow ups as the child reached its typical maturation landmarks.

The study, which involved over 500,000 infants, indicated that babies born very early, between 24 and 28 weeks, were more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital for psychiatric reasons by the time they had reached their 20s, as compared to their full-term peers.

It is hope that this conclusive knowledge will assisting in containing the trend among preterm infants, and assist in helping them to avoid possible mental health problems through early intervention programs.

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