Protecting Preemies From Stress Might Improve Later Mental Health

Protecting Preemies From Stress Might Improve Later Mental Health

Being born at an extremely low birth weight seems to increase the risk for developing mental health issues as an adult. But that risk can be lowered by lessening exposure to bullying and family stress during childhood and adolescence, new research suggests.

The Internet's Most Trusted Source For Mental Health Information
Sign up

This finding concerns premature babies born at 2.2 pounds or less.

"We are concerned that being born really small and being exposed to all the stresses associated with preterm birth can lead to an amplification of normal stresses that predispose people to develop depression and anxiety later in life," said study author Ryan Van Lieshout. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

With support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study team reviewed about 40 years' worth of data.

The data provided details on nearly 180 extremely low birth weight children who had been born between 1977 and 1982 and survived into adulthood. Their adult mental health status was compared with that of 145 adults who had been born at a normal weight.

Van Lieshout and his colleagues noted that prior research has suggested that those born at an extremely low birth weight appear to face a higher than average risk for developing mental illness later in life.

Why? The team cited the specific medical burdens that come with caring for a preemie, which often exposes the child to considerable maternal anxiety, depression and familial stress.

The study wasn't designed to prove what might cause mental health issues in preemies as they age; it was only found associations.

But extra stress in their lives, said researchers, may leave preemies more vulnerable to the kind of bullying that all children and adolescents often confront while growing up. And that vulnerability may in turn raise their risk for developing mental health problems by adulthood.

The Internet's Most Trusted Source For Mental Health Information
Sign up

"If we can find meaningful interventions for extremely low birth weight survivors and their parents," said Van Lieshout in a university news release, "we can improve the lives of preterm survivors and potentially prevent the development of depression and anxiety in adulthood."

The study was published Oct. 3 in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

More information

There's more information on low birth weight preemies at March of Dimes.


Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Related Content

Have You Heard About The Mediterranean Diet & Its Benefits For Depression?
Have You Heard About The Mediterranean Diet & Its Benefits For Depression?

Eating a Mediterranean diet may help prevent depression, research suggests. But ...

Read more
Researchers Want Doctors To Be Able To Prescribe Magic Mushrooms For Depression
Researchers Want Doctors To Be Able To Prescribe Magic Mushrooms For Depression

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University think it’s time to change the drug class...

Read more
Ease Your Depression Symptoms With These 5 Lifestyle Changes
Ease Your Depression Symptoms With These 5 Lifestyle Changes

If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you know how debilitating it can be. I...

Read more
Depression Is a Complex Illness - This Is Why It's Not Just a Matter of "Willpower"
Depression Is a Complex Illness - This Is Why It's Not Just a Matter of "Willpower"

As a psychiatrist who has grappled with it both professionally and personally, I...

Read more
How Cold Water Swimming Is Showing Significant Benefits To Treating Depression
How Cold Water Swimming Is Showing Significant Benefits To Treating Depression

Jumping into the sea in winter is the most alive and present I ever feel. I get ...

Read more
When Postpartum Depression Doesn't Go Away
When Postpartum Depression Doesn't Go Away

After giving birth to her first child, Chelsea Reiswig, like many new mothers, s...

Read more