Motor coordination and mental health in extremely low birth weight survivors during the first four decades of life
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The co-morbidity of motor coordination and mental health problems is an increasing concern. While links between poor motor coordination and mental health have been examined extensively in individuals born at normal birth weight (NBW; >2500g), relatively little research has examined these associations in special populations, particularly those born at extremely low birth weight (ELBW; <1000g). In this study, we examined whether birth weight status (ELBW vs. NBW) moderated associations between motor coordination problems and levels of mental health problems from childhood into the fourth decade of life. The present study utilized the oldest known prospectively followed, population-based cohort of ELBW survivors (n=151). This group was born between 1977 and 1982 in Ontario, Canada and was compared to a matched group of NBW controls (n=145). Mental health problems were measured at age 8 using parent and teacher reports, and at age 22-26 and 29-36 using self-reports. Childhood motor coordination was retrospectively reported at age 29-36. In both ELBW and NBW groups, childhood coordination problems were associated with elevated levels of inattention and symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, we observed stronger associations between childhood motor coordination problems and mental health problems in NBW controls at 22-26 and 29-36 years of age than in ELBW survivors. Our findings highlight the importance of recognizing and screening for motor coordination problems not only in vulnerable, at-risk children, but in all children, as motor difficulties appear to be associated with mental health problems well into adult life.
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