According to the Independent
Premature babies have been found to have a greater risk of developing serious mental health problems later in life, according to a study that will be published on Monday. Psychiatric conditions like, psychosis, bipolar disorder and depression are more common later in life, in premature babies.
Scientists in Britain and Sweden discovered that babies born very early - at less than 32 weeks' gestation - were three times more likely to be hospitalized with a psychiatric condition at the age of 16 or over.
Researchers think that the reason why premature babies are at higher risk, is due to minor, but vital changes in the brains development in babies born before the 40 week gestation period.
Depending on the psychiatric condition, the risk varies. Psychosis was 2.5 times more common in premature babies, serious depression 3 times more likely, and bipolar disorder 7.4 times more likely for babies born before 32 weeks gestation.
The study will be published in the Archives of General Psychiatry Journal. It discovered that even for babies born slightly prematurely, between 32 and 36 weeks, there is an increased psychiatric risk.
The study looked at only the most serious cases, that ended up in hospitalization. Therefore, the link could be even stronger, in real terms. However, many people who are born prematurely have no psychiatric or cognitive difficulties and are of good health and well being.
As a whole, the disorder affects between 1 and 6 percent of the population. Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive of the mental health charity SANE stated that,
"the discovery should help doctors notice individuals at greater risk of psychiatric disorders before they become severely ill." She said in a statement “Early identification of those who are vulnerable could lead to possible prevention and better outcomes. Any study which throws light on the yet-unknown causes of most mental illnesses and the development of the brain could be an important step forward.”
This important news could help doctors spot mental illness sooner, rather than later. Doctors will be more aware of who is at risk of serious mental illness and be able to put preventative measures in place. Understanding of the various mental conditions known to doctors, will increase the treatments available and the chance of a successful outcome.