Premature Babies More Likely to Develop ADHD

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A clear correlation has emerged between the birth of low weight preterm babies, and the development of ADHD later in life.

This has been revealed in a new journal on Paediatrics by a group of Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute. They have found that indeed there is an elevated risk of ADHD developing in people who were born at just 36 weeks as opposed to going full term.

The correlation was uncovered after researchers noted in previous studies that there was a higher incidence of AHDH in children who had spent time in and survived the neonatal intensive care environment.


Whilst 36 weeks is just 3 weeks early, it was still found that this amount of time was adequate to make the mental condition more likely.

Taking the information from previous studies on, the team then set out to determine the differences in ADHD susceptibility between those children born close to full term, and those born into an extreme preterm birth.


They were looking into the risk that the child may have of showing signs of ADHD at school going age. All of this was determined, factoring in a range of variables including genetics, whether the mother smoked during pregnancy and socioeconomic conditions the child was born into.

Data from the Swedish database was taken which included information of over a million children between 6 and 19. It was visible through this information to determine which children had been prescribed ADHD drugs.

It was found that those children who were most at risk of developing ADHD were born between week 23 and 28 in the pregnancy. It was noted that ADHD prevalence was two and a half times more prevalent than when the child went full term.

The Figures

It was seen that as many as 1 in every 15 of these premature babies went on to be prescribed ADHD drugs. This stands against the fully developed babies when born, where only 6 out of every 1000 children are in receipt of ADHD drugs.

It was noted too that even when there was only a very slight premature birth like two weeks the child was still at 20% higher risk of being prescribed ADHD drugs in later life.


ADHD is a dual problem for not only the child but the parents also. It represents itself also on a dual basis as with it, the issues of hyperactivity and problems paying attention manifest. There has been hot debate in the western world about the increase in diagnosis of the condition, and indeed whether children as young as seven should be placed on medications for a condition that is by no means debilitating. Many pundits have declared that ADHD itself does not exist, and that it is merely ‘badly behaved children’ that exist.


The symptoms of the condition can start to show as young as seven, and indeed ADHD has often been confused with either growing pains, or just the natural character of the child. It is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects up to 5% of children globally. The bulk of these individuals will never know they have a condition or be treated for ADHD.

Whilst the symptoms of the condition are alleviated with treatment, ADHD does not disappear with age, and the psychiatric disorder continues with the individual throughout their lifetime.

There are many natural coping mechanisms which the children, and adolescents who have the disorder use to subside the negatives of ADHD. It is mainly a male issue with four times as many boys being diagnosed with the condition as girls who receive treatment and are diagnosed.

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