Very preterm birth linked to increase in mental health conditions


Being born very preterm (VPT) carries a number of increased risks. A new study looks at the increased risks of developing mental health disorders among children born VPR).

A preterm birth can lead to a number of increased risks, including development of certain mental health conditions. A new Australian study in Pediatrics looks at the rates of these disorders in children who were born very preterm (VPT) and at term.

Investigators used the Victorian Infant Brain Study longitudinal cohort to find 125 children born VPT (<30 weeks’ gestational age and/or <1250 g) and 49 children who were born term (≥37 weeks’ gestational age). The participants were followed up at ages 7 years and 13 years. The Development and Well-Being Assessment was used to assess for the mental health conditions.

When compared with the participants who had been born at term, the 13-year-old VPT participants were found to be more likely to meet the criteria for any mental health disorder. The most common disorder in both groups was anxiety (14% in VPT participants vs 4% in term participants). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder had the greatest differential elevated risk. The rates of mental health conditions were stable overall between ages 7 years and 13 years. Individuals, however, went in and out of the diagnostic categories throughout time.

The researchers concluded that children who were born VPT have higher rates of mental health disorders than children who were born at term. They believe that the findings illustrate the necessity of early identification and continual assessment of mental health conditions in children born VPT to manage these disorders as they change over time.


1.    Yates R, Treyvaud K, Doyle LW, et al. Rates and stability of mental health disorders in children born very preterm at 7 and 13 years. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5):e20192699. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2699

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