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Depression Research and Treatment
Volume 2013, Article ID 570743, 13 pages
Research Article

Mental Health Outcomes in US Children and Adolescents Born Prematurely or with Low Birthweight

US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 18-41, Rockville, MD 20857, USA

Received 31 July 2013; Accepted 19 September 2013

Academic Editor: Michael Berk

Copyright © 2013 Gopal K. Singh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We examined the effects of prematurity ( 37 weeks of gestation) and low birthweight ( 2500 g) on mental health outcomes among US children aged 2–17 years. The 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health ( = 95,677) was used to estimate prevalence of parent-reported mental health problems in children. Prevalence of mental disorders was 22.9% among children born prematurely, 28.7% among very-low-birth-weight ( 1500 g) children, and 18.9% among moderately low-birth-weight (1500–2499 g) children, compared with 15.5% in the general child population. Compared to those born full term, children born prematurely had 61% higher adjusted odds of serious emotional/behavioral problems, 33% higher odds of depression, and 58% higher odds of anxiety. Children born prematurely had 2.3 times higher odds of autism/ASD, 2.9 times higher odds of development delay, and 2.7 times higher odds of intellectual disability than term children. Very-low-birth-weight children had 3.2 times higher odds of autism/ASD, 1.7 times higher odds of ADD/ADHD, 5.4 times higher odds of development delay, and 4.4 times higher odds of intellectual disability than normal-birth-weight children. Social factors were significant predictors of mental disorders in both premature/low-birth-weight and term/normal-birth-weight children. Neurodevelopmental conditions accounted for the relationship between prematurity and depression/anxiety/conduct problems. Prematurity and low birthweight are significant risk factors for mental health problems among children.