Are Premies Vulnerable to Socioeconomic Issues In Addition to Health Issues?

Socioeconomic IssuesIt is already commonly known that babies born premature tend to be more vulnerable to diseases and other health complications, later in life. A new study, published on Wednesday in JAMA Pediatrics, though, shows that although these oft-more-sickly babies still grow up to be relatively healthy, they are also more likely to experience other hardships.

Which hardships?

Well, the study suggests that babies born premature are, in fact, more likely to be unemployed and earn less money overall; and are more likely to have lower self-esteem, in addition to reporting more incidences of chronic health issues.

In the study, conducted out of Ontario, Canada’s McMaster University, researchers compared the health functioning and lifestyles of 100 adults between the ages of 29 and 36, each of whom were born with extremely low birth rates—which is defined as 2.2 pounds or less—with 89 adults born with normal birth weight.

Study author Dr. Saroj Saigal reports, “To our knowledge, this is the first study that has followed prospectively from birth over various intervals up to the 30s,” noting also that the results indicate people who were born with extremely low birth weight were also more likely to be single for longer, to report lower sexual activity, and to bear fewer children in their lifetime.

In addition, Saigal says that personality differences might also play a role. “These days the job market is very competitive,” Saigal advises. “Of course that can affect adults who were born at a normal weight, too, but past research has shown that this population [the extremely low birth weight group] is shyer, less outgoing, and less assertive and has more mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, so a whole host of things could be contributing to this.”

Indeed, the study showed that the low birth weight group actually earned, on average, $20,000 Canadian (U.S. $15,200) per year less than the the other group. Fortunately, roughly 80 percent of the adults born as premies were still employed within the last year, which is only slightly lower than the 92 percent of those born at term.

Overall, then, the experts comment that these findings are still positive. “These kids have done remarkably well, better than people would have expected,” remarks Christine Gleason, who is a medical advisor with the March of Dimes as well as a high