Background Preterm, and more recently early term, birth has been identified as a risk factor for poor health. Whether the sequelae of late preterm or early term birth extends to poor mental health and well-being in adolescence is unclear and has not been systematically assessed.
Method Linear regression was used to assess the adjusted associations of gestational age (very/moderate preterm (<34 weeks, n=85), late preterm (34–36 weeks, n=305), early term (37–38 weeks, n=2228), full term (39–40 weeks, n=4018), late term (41 weeks, n=809), post-term (≥42 weeks, n=213)) with self-reported self-esteem at ∼11 years (n=6935), parent-reported Rutter score assessing the common emotional and behavioural problems at ∼7 years (n=6292) and ∼11 years (n=5596) and self-reported depressive symptoms at ∼13 years (n=5795) in a population-representative Hong Kong Chinese birth cohort ‘Children of 1997’ where gestational age has little social patterning.
Results Very/moderate preterm birth was associated with higher Rutter subscore for hyperactivity (ß coefficients 0.5, 95% CI 0.01 to 1.00) at ∼7 years but not at ∼11 years, adjusted for sex, age, socio-economic position, parents’ age at birth, birth order and secondhand smoke exposure. Similarly adjusted, late preterm, early term, late term and post-term birth were not associated with self-esteem or depressive symptoms.
Conclusions In a population-representative birth cohort from a non-Western-developed setting, gestational age had few associations with mental health and well-being in adolescence, whereas very preterm birth was specifically associated with hyperactivity in childhood. Inconsistencies with studies from Western settings suggest setting specific unmeasured confounding may underlie any observed associations.
- Adolescent Health