Background: Preterm birth confers risk for poor outcome, including mental health problems. Survival of extremely preterm (EP; <28 weeks' gestation) or extremely low birthweight (ELBW; <1000 g) infants increased in the 1990s but psychiatric outcomes in older adolescents born preterm since 1990 are not well documented. This study aimed to characterize mental health and personality traits in a prospective geographical cohort of adolescents born EP/ELBW in Victoria, Australia in 1991 and 1992.
Method: At age 18 years, 215 EP/ELBW and 157 normal birthweight (>2499 g) control adolescents completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Disorders, Axis 1 Non-Patient version (SCID-I/NP), the Children's Interview for Psychiatric Syndromes (ChIPS) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) module, and questionnaires assessing recent depression and anxiety symptoms and personality traits.
Results: ADHD prevalence was significantly elevated in EP/ELBW adolescents compared with controls [15% v. 7%; odds ratio (OR) 2.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08-6.58]. Aside from ADHD, however, EP/ELBW and control adolescents reported very similar outcomes, with other lifetime diagnoses identified in 23% of EP/ELBW and 21% of controls. These were predominantly mood and anxiety disorders (21% EP/ELBW, 20% controls). The groups did not differ in recent depression or anxiety symptoms assessed using questionnaires, and personality traits were also similar.
Conclusions: ADHD was more prevalent in EP/ELBW adolescents than controls, which is consistent with some, but not all, reports on preterm survivors born before the 1990s, and younger preterm children born in the 1990s. The high rates of anxiety and mood disorders were similar in both groups, and comparable with population-based estimates.