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IBD in Childhood May Up Risk of Mental Health Issues

A new Swedish study suggests children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a greater risk for psychiatric disorders. Researchers believe that more psychological support and longer follow-up is needed for the children affected and their parents.

Investigators explain that it is already known that adults with IBD (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) run an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. Now their new study shows that children with IBD also run a higher risk of mental health problems.

The research by investigators at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden appears in JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, Karolinska scientists assessed more than 6,400 children with IBD, born between 1973 and 2013. Using population registers, the researchers compared the risk of psychiatric disorders later on in life with both healthy children from the general population and with the patients’ own siblings.

Investigators believe the study methodology which compared patients with their siblings, allowed precise analysis of a large number of so-called confounders. Confounders such as socioeconomics, lifestyle and heredity are factors that are known to affect the risk of psychiatric disorders in children.

During an average follow-up period of 9 years, approximately 17 percent of the children with IBD were given a psychiatric diagnosis compared with just under 12 percent of the healthy children and about 10 percent of the siblings.

This means that the risk of psychiatric disorders was 1.6 times higher in children with IBD compared to Swedish children from general population. Likewise, the risk for the children with IBD was greater than for their siblings.

The higher risk applied to a number of psychiatric diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. There was also a higher risk of suicide attempt after reaching adulthood.

“The study shows that children with IBD and their parents are in need of psychological support and longer follow-up,” said Dr. Agnieszka Butwicka, a researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet.

“Special help could be offered to children who become ill at a young age and to children of parents with mental health problems.”

Investigators discovered the risk of mental health problems was greatest during the first year with IBD. The risk was particularly high for children who were diagnosed with IBD before the age of 6 years and for children of parents with psychiatric disorders.

However, although the study is an observation study an absolute link cannot be identified with certainty. Nevertheless, the results do indicate that IBD contributes to mental health problems.

“Because the risk for these children is higher compared with their own siblings, it is likely that it is IBD affecting their mental health rather than other factors such as socioeconomics, lifestyle or heredity in the family,” said Dr. Jonas F. Ludvigsson, a professor in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Source: Karolinska Institute

IBD in Childhood May Up Risk of Mental Health Issues

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. (2019). IBD in Childhood May Up Risk of Mental Health Issues. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Aug 2019 (Originally: 20 Aug 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Aug 2019
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