Nine days after the storm, fallout from Hurricane Ian, the deadliest tropical cyclone to hit the United States since Katrina in 2005, is just beginning to surface. But researchers in the US are pointing to a different storm by revealing what could be unintended long-term consequences, even for those unborn.
Scientists from the College of New York (CUNY) Queens, along with colleagues from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, spent a decade monitoring the health effects of pregnant women who experienced Superstorm Sandy, a catastrophic storm that hit the New York area. in October 2012. As part of their study on stress during pregnancy, they assessed the impacts of stress on the children of those who were pregnant at the time.
His work, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry was released just a week before disaster struck again on the Florida Gulf Coast and Cuba.
“We have long known that maternal stress during pregnancy plays a key role in the development of a child’s mental health,” said psychology professor Yoko Nomura, lead author of the study. “Understanding these connections and distinctions becomes more necessary every day with the increased frequency of natural disasters caused by climate change.”
The study results are based on the findings of 163 children from various racial and economic backgrounds. They were split into two groups, with 40.5% born to people who experienced Hurricane Sandy while pregnant and 59.5% who did not.
On average, the children were three years old when their families had their first interviews with the study team. They then continued to meet with CUNY researchers for annual reviews.
Stress during pregnancy increases risk in children
What the psychologists found was that the risks of depression, anxiety, attention deficit and disruptive behavior disorders were “significantly higher” among those whose parents experienced Hurricane Sandy and suffered the stress of the disaster.
Boys were at higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as behavioral problems such as disruptive or oppositional defiant disorder. The girls were at high risk for anxiety disorders, depression and phobia. These included separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and dysthymia, a type of long-term depression.
The precise reasons why prenatal exposure to a natural disaster may have early effects on the development of mental health are unclear, but are likely related to the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.
“Our ongoing study clarifies the impact of environmental stress on the psychiatric development of preschoolers and the elevated risks for early psychopathology in this population,” said co-author Dr. Jeffrey Newcorn, Division Director ADHD and learning disabilities at Icahn. “Most surprisingly, the type of mental health problems depended largely on the biological sex of the child.”
The findings are significant enough to warrant a call for more support for pregnant women facing weather-related natural disasters, such as Super Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Ian, as well as extreme heat, wildfires and other weather impacts. .
By Lauren Fagan Articles in English