Incubator care at birth reduces depression risk in adult life
Nov 15, 2008 - 11:11:53 AM

Toronto, Nov 12 - A Canadian study says babies who receive incubator care after birth are two to three times less likely to suffer depression in their adult life.

The study was conducted by scientists from Montreal University, in collaboration with researchers from Montreal-based Sainte Justine Hospital Research Center, McGill University and Douglas Hospital Research Centre and the Britain-based Institute of Psychiatry at King's College over a period of many years.

The research was undertaken following observations about mammal behaviour where separation between mother and child after birth can lead to behavioural problems in adulthood.

'Our hypothesis was that mother-baby separation resulting from incubator care could heighten depression in adolescence or adulthood,' said study co-author and psychiatrist Richard E. Tremblay of Montreal University Monday.

'Instead, we found that incubator care could decrease the risk of depression two-to-three fold by the age of 21,' he added. It was close to three times for girls.

As part of the study, 1,212 children were recruited from kindergartens. These children had been picked up for another study in 1986.

The researchers obtained reports on their birth condition, obstetrical complications and incubator care from medical records.

After subjecting these participants to psychiatric assessments at the ages of 15 and 21, the researchers found that out of the 16.5 percent babies placed in incubators, only five percent suffered major depression by age 21.

Among those who were not placed in incubators, nine percent developed depression, which is the average rate in society.

The researchers found correlation between decreased depression and incubator care after factoring participant age, weight at birth, family adversity or maternal depression.

They also found that girls were three times less likely to experience depression by the age of 15 if they had received incubator care at birth.

'This difference was due to the fact that more girls experience depression than boys during adolescence and how boys suffer depression in later adolescent years,' said study co-author Frank Vitaro of Montreal University.

According to the researchers, children who received incubator care as babies, received more emotional support from their mothers throughout childhood because they were perceived as more vulnerable.

'Incubator care was not the sole factor that shielded participants from future depression,' said psychiatrist David Gourion of Montreal University.

'We believe that incubator care is a trigger for a complex chain of biological and emotional factors that helped decrease depression,' he said.

The study has been published in the journal Pyschiatry Research.

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