If you were born prematurely you may be more likely to develop mental health conditions, according to the results of research released today.

A King's College University study assessed the type and severity of mental health symptoms experienced by 152 adults who were born prematurely and 96 people born at full term.

The participants born very preterm showed higher positive, negative, cognitive and behavioural symptoms, including difficulties in concentrating, poor social functioning, delusions and racing thoughts.

The findings in this study support the notion of a direct association between birth factors such as low gestational age and the risk of developing psychiatric disorder later in life.


Jasmin Kroll, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said, ‘This new study adds to current knowledge of the long term consequences of prematurity by showing that a significant proportion of adults who were born prematurely, who may not have mental illnesses severe enough to warrant a diagnosis, continue to have higher than normal levels of mental health symptoms.

‘It shows that preterm born adults may need to be considered a ‘high-risk’ group and that early preventive interventions should extend to very preterm children and adolescents’.

Dr Chiara Nosarti, Reader of Neurodevelopment & Mental Health, King’s College London, said, ‘For a long time people have known that complications at birth can increase the risk of the child having mental illness when they grow up. The discovery of a potential mechanism linking early life risk factors to adult mental illness could one day lead to more targeted and effective treatments of psychiatric problems in people who experienced complications at birth.’