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Premature babies more likely to suffer multimorbidity in adolescence: research

Published : 29 Aug 2023, 00:19

  DF News Desk
Treatment of premature babies in the intensive care unit has improved enormously but supporting brain development is still a global challenge. File Photo: BABA center via University of Helsinki.

Adolescents who were born prematurely are more likely to experience multimorbidity, or the presence of multiple long-term illnesses or disabilities, according to a recent Finnish-Norwegian study, reported Xinhua.

Conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the study defines premature birth as occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy.

The highest risk of multimorbidity was observed in those born very prematurely, before 28 weeks. However, even among early full-term births occurring at 37-38 weeks, adolescents showed a slightly higher prevalence of multimorbidity compared to full-term births.

The risk of experiencing multimorbidity involving two diseases related to premature birth between the ages of 10 and 18 was 4.6 percent for those born prematurely, and 1.9 percent for those born full-term.

This study provides valuable new insights, since previous research on multimorbidity primarily focused on older age groups. Therefore, the risk factors for multimorbidity in younger people were poorly understood.

THL researcher Katriina Heikkila said that up to 23 percent of cases involving four diseases in adolescents could be explained by premature birth.

Meanwhile, project leader Professor Eero Kajantie emphasized the importance of healthcare professionals being aware of premature birth-related factors when treating young people with chronic diseases.

Conducted by THL in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University of Oulu, and the University of Turku in Finland, the study used data from over 1.1 million young people born in Finland between 1987 and 2006. It also studied data from over 555,000 young people born in Norway between 1998 and 2007. Information on multimorbidity between the ages of 10 and 18 was gathered from specialized medical care registers.

This research has been published in the latest issue of Lancet Public Health.