Study Suggests Low Birth Weight Linked to Schizophrenia

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A new study is suggesting that babies born with a low birth weight has been linked mental illness. The study conducted by Dr. Kathryn Abel and a team of researchers affiliated with the Centre for Women’s Mental Health, gathered birth weight data was from 1,491,467 infants born in Denmark and Sweden between 1973 and 1986. The findings suggested that those with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds were up to 1.63 times as likely to develop schizophrenia.

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Those who had been identified as “small” during any part of gestational process also had a much higher risk for the development of schizophrenia and any other psychiatric disorders. Those falling into the category of “small” were defined as being more than two standard deviations less than normal birth weight for a particular gestational age.

Four factors used when studying link between birth weight and schizophrenia risk

For this study the researchers reviewed birth year, gender, social class and the presence of mental illness in the mother. “In by far the largest sample to date, we have shown that low birth weight is associated with increased risk for adult schizophrenia,” the team noted. “In contrast to those previous studies that have focused on birth weight less than 5.5 pounds, however, we provide evidence that there is no threshold of effect for low birth weight but that risk extends into the normal birth weight range. We also report that other disorders severe enough to result in psychiatric admission or attendance at an outpatient clinic show a similar pattern of a graded association with birth weight.”

The researchers suggested more extensive research into prenatal causes of mental health disorders with emphasis on babies born with a low birth weight and the broader link between fetal growth, and brain development.

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