A population-based prospective birth cohort study of childhood neurocognitive and psychological functioning in healthy survivors of early life meningitis

Ann Epidemiol. 2015 Apr;25(4):236-42. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2014.11.013. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Purpose: To determine neurocognitive, educational, and psychological functioning during childhood and early adolescence among survivors of early life meningitis who are apparently healthy.

Methods: In the general population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort, meningitis exposure was determined at age of 18 months. The outcomes of intelligence quotient, short-term memory, working memory, reading and spelling abilities, psychological and behavioral problems, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and psychotic experiences at ages 9 to 13 years were compared between those exposed and unexposed to meningitis. Individuals with special educational needs were excluded.

Results: By age of 18 months, 67 of 11,035 children were reported to have suffered from meningitis (0.61%). These children, compared with the unexposed, performed worse on all neurocognitive and educational measures; mean difference in total intelligence quotient 7.36 (95% confidence interval, 1.60-13.11). Meningitis was associated with higher depressive and anxiety symptoms (P = .02), psychological and behavioral problems (P = .09), and increased risk of psychotic experiences; risk ratio 2.22 (95% confidence interval, 1.12-4.38).

Conclusions: Exposure to meningitis in the early life is associated with neurocognitive, educational, and psychological difficulties during childhood and early adolescence among survivors who are apparently healthy. Therefore, focusing only on serious neurologic disabilities may underestimate the true impact of early life meningitis.

Keywords: Affective symptoms; Anxiety; Behavioral problems; Central nervous system infections; Depression; Educational achievement; Intelligence; Memory; Meningitis; Psychosis; Psychotic experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Meningitis / complications*
  • Meningitis / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotic Disorders / etiology
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data