Premature babies born with extremely low birth weight are not only at risk of physical problems but are also more likely to experience later in life mental health problems — mainly involving attention, anxiety-related and social problems, a study says. “Our findings provide evidence that individuals born at extremely low birth weight are at higher overall risk for psychological difficulties than their normal birth weight peers,” said lead author Karen Mathewson from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  “These difficulties most frequently involve attention, anxiety-related and social problems,” Mathewson said. Because of improvements in recent decades in neonatal intensive care, premature babies who are born at extremely low birth weight (less than 1,000 grams) have a greater chance of surviving than ever before. Mathewson and her colleagues analysed 41 studies that followed 2,712 individuals who were extremely low birth weight babies and 11,127 who were normal birth weight babies.  The studies took place over a 26-year period (1990-2016) in 12 different countries. Extremely low birth weight babies were found to be at increased risk for particular mental health problems, beginning in childhood and extending at least into their 30s, according to the study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. As children, they were significantly more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in almost every study included in the review.  Adolescents were also at greater risk for ADHD and social problems.

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