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New Study Suggests that Smoking during Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Bipolar Disorder in Offspring
A study published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests an association between smoking during pregnancy and increased risk for developing bipolar disorder (BD) in adult children. Researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in collaboration with scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, evaluated offspring from a large cohort of pregnant women who participated in the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS) from 1959-1966. The study was based on 79 cases and 654 comparison subjects. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with a twofold increased risk of BD in their offspring.
Smoking during pregnancy is known to contribute to significant problems in utero and following birth, including low birth weight and attentional difficulties. This is the first study to suggest an association between prenatal tobacco exposure and BD, a serious psychiatric illness marked by significant shifts in mood that alternate between periods of depression and mania. Symptoms typically become noticeable in the late teens or early adulthood.
“These findings underscore the value of ongoing public health education on the potentially debilitating, and largely preventable, consequences that smoking may have on children over time,” said Alan Brown, MD, MPH, senior author and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University and Mailman School of Public Health.
The authors wrote: “Much of the psychopathology associated with prenatal tobacco exposure clusters around the ‘externalizing’ spectrum, which includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), and substance abuse disorders. Although not diagnostically classified along the externalizing spectrum, BD shares a number of clinical characteristics with these disorders, including inattention, irritability, loss of self-control, and proclivity to drug/alcohol use.” In effect, children who were exposed to tobacco smoke in utero may exhibit some symptoms and behaviors that are found in BD.
A previous study by Dr. Brown and colleagues found that flu virus in pregnant mothers was associated with a fourfold increased risk that their child would develop BD.
Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Child Health and Development.
The authors declare no financial or other conflicts of interest.
Columbia University Department of Psychiatry & NYS Psychiatric Institute
Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. It is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, BD and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. Visit http://columbiapsychiatry.org/ for more information.
About Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health
Founded in 1922, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit www.mailman.columbia.edu
Founded in 1959 by Jacob Yerushalmy at the University of California, Berkeley, The Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) (www.chdstudies.org) enrolled 15,000 families who were members of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Plan between 1959 and 1967. CHDS scientists discovered ways to make pregnancy safer for mothers and their babies. Now they are discovering connections between early life and cancer, heart disease, diabetes, fertility and mental illness. The National Institute of Child Health and Development of the National Institutes of Health makes this unique research possible through continuing support over 40 years. The CHDS is now a part of the Public Health Institute, Berkeley California.
About the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research
The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research conducts, publishes and disseminates epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and the society at large. It seeks to understand the determinants of illness and well-being and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Currently, the Division’s 550+ staff are working on more than 350 ongoing research studies in behavioral health and aging, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, health care delivery and policy, infectious diseases, vaccine safety and effectiveness, and women's and children's health.