To examine psychiatric morbidity and overall functioning in adults born with low birth weight compared with normal birth weight controls at age 26 years and to study longitudinal trajectories of psychiatric morbidity from early adolescence to adulthood.
Prospective cohort study wherein 44 preterm very low birth weight (≤1500 g), 64 term small for gestational age (SGA; <10th percentile), and 81 control adults were examined using the MINI-International Neuropsychiatric Interview: M.I.N.I. Plus, Norwegian version, the Global Assessment of Functioning, and questions on daily occupation and level of education. Prevalence of psychiatric disorders from previous follow-ups at age 14 and 19 years were included for longitudinal analysis.
From adolescence to adulthood, the term SGA group had a marked increase in the estimated probability of psychiatric disorders from 9% (95% confidence interval, 4–19) to 39% (95% confidence interval, 28–51). At 26 years, psychiatric diagnoses were significantly more prevalent in the preterm very low birth weight group (n = 16, 36%; P = .003) and the term SGA group (n = 24, 38%; P = .019) compared with the control group (n = 11, 14%). Both low birth weight groups had lower educational level and functioning scores than controls and a higher frequency of unemployment and disability benefit.
Low birth weight was a substantial risk factor for adult psychiatric morbidity and lowered overall functioning. The results underscore the need for long-term follow-up of low birth weight survivors through adolescence and adulthood, focusing on mental health. The longitudinal increase in psychiatric morbidity in the term SGA group calls for additional investigation.