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Birth weight and later risk of depression in a national birth cohort

  • Catharine R. Gale (a1) and Christopher N. Martyn (a1)

Abstract

Background

Low birth weight increases the risk of childhood behavioural problems, but it is not clear whether poor foetal growth has a long-term influence on susceptibility to depression.

Aims

To examine the relation between birth weight and risk of psychological distress and depression.

Method

At age 16 years 5187 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study completed the 12-item General Health Questionnaire to assess psychological distress. At age 26 years 8292 participants completed the Malaise Inventory to assess depression and provided information about a history of depression.

Results

Women whose birth weight was 3 kg had an increased risk of depression at age 26 years (OR=1.3; 95% CI 1.0–1.5) compared with those who weighed > 3.5 kg. Birth weight was not associated with a reported history of depression or with risk of psychological distress at age 16 years. In men there were no associations between any measurement and the full range of birth weight but, compared with men of normal birth weight, those born weighing $2.5 kg were more likely to be psychologically distressed at age 16 years (OR=l.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.5) and to report a history of depression at age 26 years (OR=l.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.3).

Conclusions

Impaired neurodevelopment during foetal life may increase susceptibility to depression.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr C. Gale, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK. Tel: 44 (0) 23 80764080; fax: 44 (0) 23 80704021; e-mail: crg@mrc.soton.ac.uk

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Birth weight and later risk of depression in a national birth cohort

  • Catharine R. Gale (a1) and Christopher N. Martyn (a1)
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eLetters

Born grieving

Althea Hayton, writer and counsellor
29 September 2005

I read this article with interest, because I have been studying the feelings and attitudes of the sole survivors of a twin or multiple pregancy. This article and all the other articles sited in it suggest somekind of event or effect that occurs during pregnancy and leaves a permanent effect on the baby after birth.

I believe that more research is needed into the psychological effect of losing a twin before birth. My own initial research, carried out by means of a web-based questionnaire, indicates that those who know and haveproof that they lost a twin and those who simply believe it but have no proof experience similar psychological difficulties. These include depression, isolation and various forms of self harm, including addiction and suicide attempts. It also seems likely that survivors of an identical twin pair are more deeply affected by the loss of their twin than the survivors of fraternal twins - it seems that they are born grieving. ... More

Conflict of interest: None Declared

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