Premature babies don’t only face physical problems at their birth: They are at a greater risk for mental illness as they become older, adolescent or young adults.
So found a new study that was done in Sweden, and which The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Scientists looked at birth and hospital admission records for more than 1.3 million Swedes that were born from 1973 to 1985, according to The Times.
The bottom line was that compared with those who had arrived full term, adolescents and young adults born very prematurely, with less than 32 weeks gestation, were more than double as likely to be hospitalized for disorders such as schizophrenia.
And that’s not all. The premature were also almost three times as likely to come down with clinical depression, and were more than seven times as likely to develop bipolar illness, The Times reported.
Chiara Nosarti, the study’s lead author and lecturer at Kings College London, told The Times that “while the increase in relative risk is substantial, the absolute increase in numbers of people with the illnesses is not.”
The risk for mental illness, such as depression, also went up for those born late preterm, namely 32 to 36 weeks of gestation. But the risk was not as great as it was for those born after less than 32 weeks gestation. For example, the late preterm were 60 percent more likely to be hospitalized for schizophrenia, according to The Times.
Researchers have a theory that explains their findings.
“The preterm brain is particularly vulnerable to injury, and functional M.R.I. imaging of young adults born very preterm has found disruptions in brain networks similar to those found in psychiatric patients,” The Times wrote.