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Anxiety and depressive disorders in children born preterm: a meta-analysis

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 13:45 authored by Grace FitzallenGrace Fitzallen, Sagar, Y, Taylor, HG, Bora, S

Objective:Preterm birth is associated with a high prevalence of psychiatric disorders including internalizing problems. However, there is a lack of consensus on the risk for depression and on specific diagnostic profiles. This meta-analysis investigates the independent pooled odds of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition anxiety and depressive disorders in children between 3 and 19 years of age born preterm compared with their term-born peers.

Methods:PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature electronic databases were searched (last updated in September 2019) using population ("child"), exposure ("preterm birth"), and outcome ("anxiety") terms for English peer-reviewed publications. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed with the risk of bias assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Pooled odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) was estimated using fixed-effects models.

Results:Eleven independent studies met the inclusion criteria. The pooled sample comprised 1294 preterm and 1274 term-born children with anxiety outcomes and 777 preterm and 784 term-born children with depressive outcomes between 3 and 19 years of age. Children born preterm had significantly greater odds for anxiety (OR: 2.17; 95% CI, 1.43-3.29), generalized anxiety (OR: 2.20; 95% CI, 1.26-3.84), and specific phobia (OR: 1.93; 95% CI, 1.05-3.52) relative to their term-born peers. There were no significant between-group differences for reported depressive disorders.

Conclusion: Preterm birth is associated with a higher prevalence of anxiety, but not depressive disorders, from 3 to 19 years of age, suggesting distinct etiological pathways in this high-risk population. The findings support variation in the rates of specific anxiety diagnoses, indicating the need to extend neurodevelopmental surveillance to encompass a holistic emotional screening approach.


Publication title

Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP








School of Psychological Sciences


Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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© 2021 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc

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Socio-economic Objectives

Determinants of health; Neonatal and child health

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