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Parental Mental Illness Affects Children's Risk of Death

Mortality risk found to be elevated from birth through early adulthood

THURSDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The children of psychiatric inpatients have an elevated mortality risk from birth through early adulthood, according to a report published in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Roger T. Webb, M.Sc., of the Centre for Women's Mental Health Research at the University of Manchester, U.K., analyzed data on 1.46 million Danish singleton live and stillbirths during 1973-1998, recorded dates of death with follow-up to Jan. 1, 1999, and obtained parental admission histories since 1969 from the Psychiatric Central Register.

The researchers found that the children of mentally ill parents were at higher risk of death during infancy and early childhood, and that the relative risks were attenuated during school years and rose again in early adulthood. They identified high-risk subgroups as postneonates with two mentally ill parents, neonates and postneonates whose mothers had alcohol and drug-related disorders, and neonates whose mothers had affective disorders.

"Clinicians should be mindful of the high-risk subgroups identified as well as our finding that schizophrenia and related disorders are not associated with excess mortality risks relative to other parental disorders," the authors write. "The greatest number of excess deaths were attributable to alcohol-related disorders, this being the most prevalent paternal diagnostic group and the second most prevalent in mothers."

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