To assess the early adult health, education, and social functioning of a national cohort of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants born in 1986 in New Zealand compared with a control group of young adults born the same year. The impact of neurodevelopmental disability at age 7 to 8 years on young adult outcomes was examined.
Participants underwent a comprehensive face-to-face interview that included standardized assessment tools and previously used custom written survey items.
We interviewed 230 VLBW young adults (71% of survivors) and 69 controls at age 22 to 23 years. VLBW young adults were 5.6 kg lighter and 4.2 cm shorter than controls, had lower rates of tertiary education/training (percentage difference [95% confidence interval]: −13.1 [−21.6 to −1.8]) and university degree completion (−15.6 [−28.0 to −4.8]), had more often been welfare dependent (23.5 [10.2 to 35.0]), had few or no friends (20.5 [7.2 to 32.2]), and more often had wheeze in the past year (20.1 [9.0 to 28.6]). However, in many areas there were no differences between the VLBW cohort and controls, and VLBW adults rated their overall quality of life and behavioral functioning similarly to their peers. Those with previous disability had poorer social, occupational, and physical functioning than other VLBW young adults.
Despite some evidence of health, educational, and social difficulties, former VLBW young adults obtained similar scores across many aspects of health and social functioning as their same age peers, with some differences largely confined to those with previous disability.