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April 10, 2020 Friday 01:10:23 AM IST

Parents' mental illness linked to heightened risk of child injury

Parent Interventions

Parental mental illness is associated with increased risk of injuries among children up to 17 years of age and the risks peak during the first year of life, finds a study published by The BMJ this week. It is the largest analysis of its kind to date, and shows that the risk of injury was slightly higher for children exposed to a mother's (maternal) mental illness than to a father's (paternal). The risk was also higher for common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, compared to more serious mental conditions, such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Previous studies have shown links between parental mental illness and the risk of injuries in offspring. However, most studies have focused on maternal exposure, common mental disorders and younger children, or were unable to separate risks by type of injuries.

To address this knowledge gap, researchers based in Sweden and the UK set out to determine the relationship between parental mental illness and the risk of injuries among offspring. Their findings are based on 1,542,000 children born in Sweden between 1996 and 2011 to 893,334 mothers and 873,935 fathers. Health care records were used to identify maternal or paternal mental illness, including psychosis, alcohol/drug misuse, mood disorders, anxiety and stress-related disorders, eating disorders and personality disorders.

Records were also used to identify childhood injuries, including transport injuries, falls, burns, drowning and suffocation, poisoning and violence at ages 0-1, 2-5, 6-9, 10-12, and 13-17 years, comparing children with parental mental illness and children without. After taking account of potentially influential factors, the researchers found that children of parents with mental illness had higher rates of injuries compared to children of parents without mental illness (in ages 0-1, these children had an additional 2,088 injuries per 100,000 person-years). This is calculated by following 100,000 people for 1 year.

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