INTRODUCTION: Children of mothers with severe mental illness are at increased risk of premature death including in infancy and early childhood. Importantly, these children are also more likely to be exposed to adverse socio-demographic risk factors and serious obstetric complications which, of themselves, may increase risk for childhood mortality. We examined mortality outcome at different ages up to 5 years taking account of these risks.
METHOD: We used linked data across Western Australian whole-population psychiatric, inpatient, death, and midwives' registers to identify 15,486 births to mothers with severe mental illness and 452,459 births to mothers with no mental illness. Multivariable models were adjusted for exposure to adverse socio-demographic risk factors and serious obstetric complications.
RESULTS: Overall risk of premature death was increased amongst children of mothers with severe mental illness (2.3%, 354 deaths) compared with children of mothers with no mental illness (1.4%, 6523 deaths); the same was true for specific risk of stillbirth, neonatal, post‑neonatal and early childhood deaths. Risk was substantially attenuated after adjustment for adverse socio-demographic exposures, and further still after adjustment for exposure to serious obstetric complications. We observed no effects for the timing of maternal illness diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: To minimise the risk of premature mortality in the children of mothers with severe mental illness, priority should be given to the prompt diagnosis of maternal mental illness with targeted delivery of high quality antenatal and psychiatric care, as well as social and structural supports for affected families that continue after birth.
- Child, Preschool
- Infant Mortality
- Infant, Newborn
- Mental Disorders/epidemiology
- Mortality, Premature