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Keywords:

  • affective disorder;
  • birth weight;
  • depression;
  • gestational age;
  • prematurity;
  • schizophrenia

Larsen JK, Bendsen BB, Foldager L, Munk-Jørgensen P. Prematurity and low birth weight as risk factors for the development of affective disorder, especially depression and schizophrenia: a register study.

Background: The present study examined whether low birth weight, prematurity or low birth weight adjusted for gestational age are risk factors for the subsequent development of affective disorder, especially depression.

Methods: A population-based case–control design was applied to the Danish Medical Birth Register and the Danish Psychiatric Central Register to identify all individuals born between 1 January 1974 and 31 December 1990 and diagnosed prior to 29 August 2003 with affective disorder alone (ICD-10 F3; 4297 females, 1861 males), schizophrenia alone (ICD-10 F2; 1364 females, 2292 males) or both disorders (ICD-10 F3 + F2; 450 females, 405 males). The association between low birth weight and the risk of developing affective disorder and/or schizophrenia was analysed by conditional logistic regression analysis.

Results: Low birth weight was found to be associated with a significantly elevated risk of developing schizophrenia alone (p = 0.021) and both affective disorder and schizophrenia (p = 0.024), and a non-significantly elevated risk of developing affective disorder alone (p = 0.063). The effect remained significant in the affective disorder and schizophrenia groups (p = 0.039) when correcting for gestational age (premature birth), but was lost in the group with both disorders. Premature birth per se was found to be associated with a significantly elevated risk of developing both affective disorder and schizophrenia (p = 0.00018), an effect that remained significant after adjustment for low birth weight.

Conclusion: Prematurity and low birth weight were found to be risk factors for subsequent development of affective disorder (especially depression) and schizophrenia.