Children who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face a higher risk of getting mental health problems
Children who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face a higher risk of getting mental health problems, a study suggests. Researchers in Sweden analysed data from 6,400 children, tracking them for an average of nine years.
They found around 17 percent of the children with the agonising condition were given a psychiatric diagnosis.
By contrast, the rate of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders was just 12 percent for healthy children - and 10 percent for the siblings of children with IBD.
The scientists claim this means the risk of psychiatric disorders is 1.6 times higher among children with IBD.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of IBD, of which both are incurable.
The conditions are thought to affect some three million Americans, over 300,000 people in the UK and 85,000 Australians. They already knew that adults with IBD faced an increased risk of psychiatric disorders.
But the new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Pediatrics, examined the risk when considering children.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet concluded that overall childhood-onset IBD was associated with psychiatric morbidity.
The higher risk applied to a number of conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.
The team compared the risk of psychiatric disorders later on in life with both healthy children from the general population and with the patients' own siblings.
By comparing siblings, scientists were able to take into account a large number of so-called confounders, such as socioeconomics, lifestyle and heredity.
These are all factors that are known to affect the risk of psychiatric disorders in children.
There was also a higher risk of suicide attempt after reaching adulthood for children with IBD, the research revealed.
The academics, writing in the medical journal, said their findings of the increased risk of suicide attempt were 'particularly concerning'.
They added the results suggest 'that long-term psychological support be considered for patients with childhood-onset IBD'.
Agnieszka Butwicka, co-author, said: '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.'
The risk was particularly high for children who were diagnosed with IBD before the age of six and for children of parents with psychiatric disorders.