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Link between low birth weight and psychiatric problems in adulthood found

Posted:  Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A new research found that infants with low birth weight could be at a higher risk of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other psychiatric conditions in adulthood, compared with those born a healthy weight, and steroid use just before birth may increase this risk even further.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study analysed 84 adults who were born an extremely low birth weight (less than 1,000 g) and 90 adults who were born a normal birth weight for the presence of psychiatric disorders. All of them were born between 1977 and 1982 and were in their early 30s at the time of assessment.

They found that participants reporting extremely low birth weight were three times less likely to develop a substance or alcohol use disorder than those with normal birth weight. However, low-birth-weight participants were 2.5 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

In addition, the low birth weight participants, whose mothers received steroids just before birth, were almost 4.5 times more likely than normal-birth-weight participants to develop mental disorders. Talking about the findings, the researchers said, "Importantly, we have identified psychiatric risks that may develop for extremely low-birth-weight survivors as they become adults, and this understanding will help us better predict, detect and treat mental disorders in this population."

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