Home » ADHD » Higher Risk of Depression, ADHD among Preemies

Higher Risk of Depression, ADHD among Preemies

A new Canadian study has found that extremely low birth weight babies may have a higher risk of psychiatric problems in adulthood than other infants born at normal birth weights.

Low birth weight infants, however, are less likely than others to have alcohol or substance use disorders as adults, say the researchers.

McMaster University scientists also found that extremely low birth weight babies — whose mothers received a full course of steroids prior to giving birth — are at even greater risk for psychiatric disorders.

“Importantly, we have identified psychiatric risks that may develop for extremely low birth weight survivors as they become adults, and this understanding will help us better predict, detect and treat mental disorders in this population,” said Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, lead author of the study.

The research have been published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study involved 84 adults who were born weighing less than 1,000 grams (two pounds, two ounce), and 90 normal birth weight babies. All were born in Ontario between 1977 and 1982.

The research found that in their early 30s, those low birth weight babies were nearly three times less likely to develop an alcohol or substance use disorder.

But, they were two and a half times more likely than adults born normal birth weight to develop a psychiatric problem such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or attentive-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Extremely low birth weight babies — who received a full course of life-saving steroids before birth as part of their treatment — had even higher odds (nearly four and a half times) of those same psychiatric issues, and they were not protected against alcohol or substance use disorders.

Source: McMaster University/Newswise

Mom and baby hands photo available from Shutterstock

Higher Risk of Depression, ADHD among Preemies

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Higher Risk of Depression, ADHD among Preemies. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 10 Feb 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.