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Intensive care babies have greater risk of mental health problems

20 March 2020

Children who spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at birth have a higher risk of mental health issues later, regardless of birthweight.

Researchers at McMaster University examined the mental health of NICU children in childhood and adolescence, using data from almost 8000 parent and youth psychiatric interviews.

The results, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, show that children aged four to 11 who were admitted to a NICU were nearly twice as likely to have a mental disorder or more than one mental illness.

At the age of 12 to 17, NICU graduates retained nearly twice the risk of developing multiple psychiatric problems and oppositional defiant disorder.

Study author Ryan Van Lieshout said the study suggests it may be prudent to expand monitoring for mental health issues ‘to all infants who stay in a NICU regardless of birthweight status’.

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