Friday, 15 June 2012

Early Birth Linked to Mental Illness

Another particularly interesting article ( to me ) in Madeleine's excellent Health Check Wales supplement, was news of the findings of this research from King's College London and Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Basically, their findings are that there is a link between premature babies and subtle disorders of brain development that cause these babies to be more susceptible to psychiatric disorders later in life. Previous research has shown an association between premature birth and an increase risk of schizophrenia, but this is the first study to report an association with a broad range of psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, psychosis and depression. Dr Nosarati, a senior lecturer in mental health studies at King's, emphasised that "since we considered the most severe cases that resulted in hospitalisation, it may be that in real terms this link is stronger". He contiues, " However, it is important to remember that even with the increased risk, these disorders will only affect 1% to 6% of the population. We also need to remember the majority of individuals born prematurely have no psychiatric or cognitive problems - they are healthy and well-functioning babies and young adults. By comparison, two in 1000 people who are born full-term are hospitalised with a psychiatric diagnosis, whereas that figure is doubled for individuals born pre-term - less than 37 weeks - at four in 1000. In very premature babies, the rate is six in a 1000.
The greatest risk was conferred by very premature babies at less 32 weeks; there is more than twice the likelihood of them being hospitalised with psychosis; they are seven times more likely to have bipolar and more than three times likely to be hospitalised with an eating disorder.

About one in 13 babies born in the UK every year is premature. a full term is defined as babies born at between 37 and 41 weeks of gestation; moderately pre-term is 33 and 36 weeks and very premature is before 32 weeks. Whereas 20 years ago a gestational age of 32 weeks the survival rate was extremely low, now the majority will survive. [ No doubt, my friend and colleague, Magpie, will be able to expand on these facts from her extensive knowledge of such matters. ]

"The strongest association we found was to mental health disorders known to have a strong biological basis, such as bipolar disorder, further adding to the theory neuro-developmental differences in those born prematurely may play an important role for later mental health."


In another web article on the BBC site, I was really pleased to read that two MPs - Charlie Walker and Kevan Jones - talk openly about their own experiences of mental health problems. Their openness and honest revelations will, undoubtedly, prove a tremendous boost to the campaign to eliminate the stigmatisation suffered by mentally ill patients throughout the UK. As Campaign Director, Sue Baker, of Time to Change - a mental health anti-stigma campaign run by charities MInd and Rethink Mental Illness - said, "This will go down in the history books as we have never seen our political leaders and Parliamentarians feel able to discuss their mental health problems openly without fear of discrimination. We want people from all walks of life to be able to do the same and it's great to see politicians making a stand."

I can only comment that I agree completely with Sue, and I add my thanks and congratulations to these two MPs for their bravery and openness. Well done, and good luck to this important campaign ! R.W.
P.S. Special thanks to Mike Pope for his help

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