Study finds children with IBD at higher risk of psychiatric disorders

A new study by Swedish researchers at Karolinska Institutet found that children diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) could be at an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. The findings are available in JAMA Pediatrics.

The findings, researchers say, show a higher risk for depressive, anxiety, personality, and eating disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and ADHD. The results were established through the recruitment of 6,400 children with IBD born between 1973 and 2013.

In previous studies, it’s been determined that IBD in adults, like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, carry a higher risk of psychiatric disorders.

In this study, researchers examined a sample of children free of any digestive illnesses and compared the risk of psychiatric disorders to siblings of IBD patients. Comparing patients with their siblings allows researchers to gather several factors, like heredity, lifestyle, socioeconomics, all of which affects the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder.

Researchers determined that nearly 17 percent of the children with IBD received a diagnosis for a psychiatric condition compared to their healthy counterpart with a rate of nearly 12 percent and 10 percent of the siblings, based on a follow-up of 9 years.

In children with IBD, the risk of psychiatric disorders was 1.6 times higher compared to their healthy counterpart. The highest risk period for a diagnosis of IBD was before the age of six and among children whose parents were already diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, the study concluded.

“The study shows that children with IBD and their parents are in need of psychological support and longer follow-up. Special help could be offered to children who become ill at a young age and to children of parents with mental health problems,” said Agnieszka Butwicka, a researcher at Karolinska Institutet.

The study received funding from Fredrik och Ingrid Thurings Stiftelse, Mag-Tarmfonden, the Mjölkdroppen Foundation, the Jane and Dan Olsson Foundation, the Swedish Cancer Society, and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research.