Prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses in preterm and full-term children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis

Psychol Med. 2011 Dec;41(12):2463-74. doi: 10.1017/S003329171100081X. Epub 2011 May 20.


Background: Preterm (PT) birth and low birth weight (LBW) are high-prevalence events that are associated with adverse outcomes in the longer term, with vulnerability increasing as maturity at birth decreases. Psychiatric symptomatology appears heightened in PT/LBW survivors, though there are some discordant findings from studies using questionnaire measures, particularly with respect to anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Method: This article synthesises findings from research using clinical psychiatric diagnostic criteria in PT/LBW individuals aged 10-25 years compared with term-born peers. Key outcomes of interest were the rates of individuals receiving any psychiatric diagnosis and the number of diagnoses of anxiety or depressive disorders.

Results: A literature search for studies reporting prevalence of 'any diagnosis' yielded five studies that met inclusion criteria, with a total of 565 PT/LBW and 533 control individuals. Also, five studies were found that reported rates of anxiety/depression (692 PT/LBW and 605 control individuals). The risk of these outcomes was increased for PT/LBW individuals compared with controls [any diagnosis: odds ratio (OR) 3.66, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.57-5.21; anxiety or depressive disorder: OR 2.86, 95% CI 1.73-4.73].

Conclusions: The studies reviewed here indicate that, in addition to monitoring and management of medical and cognitive sequelae, the psychological well-being of PT/LBW individuals should be a key part of ongoing care.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / psychology
  • Infant, Premature / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult