Premature or low birthweight babies are more than three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and mood disorders in adolescence than full-term infants.

Professor Stephen Wood, a psychologist from Birmingham University, worked with co-investigators at the University of Melbourne in Australia to conduct a meta-analysis of ten studies into mental health outcomes in children born prematurely.

The research, published in Psychological Medicine, found that youngsters who were born early or were underweight at birth were at "significantly increased risk" of mental health disorders, particularly during their teens.

"As more and more of these babies survive and their physical problems are combated, we are seeing an apparent increase in mood and anxiety disorders," explained Professor Wood.

"While we cannot as yet be sure of the cause of this problem in pre-term babies - indeed there could be multiple causes - we believe one factor could be how early life trauma affects the way the brain handles stress, and we are now exploring this in more detail."

He added: "Medical professionals involved in the care of survivors of preterm/low birthweight are perfectly positioned to assist these vulnerable individuals as they navigate the challenges of adolescence and young adulthood.

"In addition to monitoring and management of medical and cognitive problems, the psychological well-being of pre-term/low birthweight individuals should be a key part of ongoing care."

Posted by Penny Hosie on 28.6.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com  

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