A study analyzed babies born between 1977 and 1982 in Ontario, Canada, specifically newborns with extremely low birth weight (ELBW) at 2.2 pounds or even less. The participants were interviewed starting age 8 all the way to their 36th year in several points in their lives.

The survey focused mainly on the presence of bullying. The findings were compared to the data of babies born with normal birth weight starting at 5.5 pounds and up. All the participants were born during the same period and all the interviews were done at similar intervals.

Researchers from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at the McMaster University found that ELBW babies experienced higher chances of bullying as children. While bullying is common in nearly one-third of children around the world, preemies carry increased bullying risks that affect their chances of developing anxiety and antisocial behaviors.

The amplified bullying risks also affect their chances of developing depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or both during their adult years. Lead author Kimberly Day said that being bullied has a lasting effect among the prematurely born babies that stretches into their 30s.

Day said that parents, clinicians and teachers must be informed about the long-term effects of bullying on a person's mental health. Keeping a close eye on bullying practices and creating interventions are equally important.

"Their risk for anxiety disorders is especially high, particularly among those who are exposed to bullying on a regular basis," said senior author Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, a behavioral neurosciences and psychiatry assistant professor of McMaster University.

The study found that bullied preemies were twice as likely to have mental health issues compared to normal-weight infants who had the same experience. In their 30s, bullied preemies were three times more likely to have anxiety problems including social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder to name a few. The rates go up based on the frequency of bullying.

"It calls on all of us to reach out and protect these children. This study is extremely valuable," said Dr. Debra Pepler, York University's LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution senior executive member.

The American National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the research. The study was published in the Pediatrics journal.

Photo: Richard Welter | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.