Premature Births Linked to Various Psychiatric Diagnoses


In one of the first, and the largest, studies of relationships between premature births and severe psychiatric disorders, researchers from Sweden and England examined the medical records of over 1.3 million people born in Sweden. In adulthood, they found, those who had been born prematurely were 7.4x more likely to be hospitalized with bipolar disorder, 3x more likely to be hospitalized for depression and 2.5x more likely for psychosis. “The immature nervous system is particularly vulnerable to neonatal brain injury,” the authors note. “The lack of specificity in outcome suggests that there may be similar developmental etiologies linking various psychiatric disorders.” Results appeared online June 1, 2012 in Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I don’t know why you link to this stuff Kermit.

    The study, had 50,000 premature babies out of the 1.3 million babies who grew into adults. 44,000 approximately of these never went on to get a psychiatric label, thousands that did, got the ‘depression’ label, or were labeled to have ‘misused’ alcohol.

    Less than 700 people out of the million plus births, grew up to be labeled ‘psychotic’.

    Of these 700, less than 50 were born premature.

    Also I’d like to point out that this research, as it is from data culled from labels slapped on people during involuntary “hospitalizations”, is in essence, research carried out using non-consenting participants.

    Forced human research, in other words.

    And for their next trick, they will analyze data from the million plus births and claim ‘statistically’ more premature babies grew up to buy sub prime mortgages and like chocolate ice cream.

    Also from the table of data, of the 217 people who grew up to be labeled ‘bipolar’, 193 of them were not born premature.

    Maybe instead of crunching data and trying to prove a group of people are biologically inferior or ‘brain damaged’, these lovely people who exist to suck down grant money, should invite someone with a psychiatric label around for dinner and get to know our life story and see us as human beings who’ve had understandable upsets and traumas in our lives, instead of these ‘researchers’ existing parasitically on taxpayer dollars and also using our private medical records without consent crunching labels slapped on us and stats about the day we were born into computers, far away from any human understanding of the very real humans they so arrogantly profess to know something about without even meeting them.

    This isn’t cholesterol levels, this isn’t tumors, on a data sheet, this is human lives, thrown into psychiatry and labeled, and it is NEVER going to be ivory tower ‘researchers’ crunching numbers who are going to be the ones to help us, it never has been, in generations of this kind of ‘research’, and it never will be.

    Because if you’re so far removed from me that I’m nothing but a bunch of parameters shoved into a computer program, you’ve got nothing to offer me, I’m not even human to you. If I was born in Sweden, I wouldn’t have even been asked for permission to use my supposedly private medical data. What happened to me, the problems in my life, are about as significant to these researchers as a data point indicating my blood pressure, which incidentally rises when I realize the world is full of hundreds of thousands of these highly paid clowns who get up in the morning with the sole aim of proving their prejudged notions that I am a birth defect.

    It’s offensive to even take a job, parking in the parking lot, catching an elevator to a room with a bank of computers and some data culled from the Swedish government, and work in it for months and claim you are doing anything to help the group of human beings who wind up distressed and labeled by psychiatry. This is what these people are. They probably get a kick from their do-gooding and tell people they are ‘working for the cure’ at dinner parties.

    Give me someone who actually works with real people, not data, any day of the week.

    What amount of people in the data sample, had parents who knew the dangers of psychiatry and purposefully found alternatives to having their kid labeled, and they didn’t wind up in the labeled column in the data? Yet experienced similar breakdowns?

    What amount of people had crises as young adults, and were wise, and stayed away from psychiatry as a ‘solution’ and didn’t end up represented in the data as someone who ‘met the criteria’?

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  2. I haven’t read the study but there might be some factors that occur to me that may be related to later unhappiness and might also cause premature birth. IE a distressed mother with some problem that increases the likely hood of premature birth but which impact psychologically on the child.

    Or, being premature usually means being in a neonatal unit, separated from parents for some period of time which could be distressing for the baby.

    Or it could result in some developmental problem with the child which could result in them lagging behind their peers in school which could lead to bullying, which could be a cause of later psychological problems.

    So I’d like to see all the possible psycho-social causes of adult distress from childhood looked at before jumping to any inherent brain abnormality being jumped on as an explanation – and that is if the statistics do hang together, and I am not an expert on the stats, so I would find it harder to comment on them.

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