(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

New mental health diagnoses in parents of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit—A retrospective review of the Military Health System database

APA Citation:

Farr, B. J., Evans, A. M., Rush, T. M., Grabill, C. M., Ricca, R. L., & Rice-Townsend, S. E. (2022). New mental health diagnoses in parents of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit—A retrospective review of the Military Health System database. Journal of Perinatology, 42, 738-744. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-022-01331-7

Abstract Created by REACH:

Using a sample of 35,012 military parents of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) infants and non-NICU infants, this study examined whether parents of NICU infants were at a greater risk of later mental health disorders (i.e., depression, anxiety, alcohol/opiate dependence, and adjustment disorder) than parents of non-NICU infants 5 years after childbirth. The study also examined associations between parents’ demographics at childbirth (e.g., branch of service, rank, duty status, race, age) and later diagnosed mental health disorders. Overall, parents of NICU infants were more likely to experience later mental health problems than non-NICU parents.


Mental health
Substance use

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Quantitative Study


Farr, Bethany J., Evans, Amber M., Rush, Toni M., Grabill, Colette M., Ricca, Robert L., Rice-Townsend, Samuel E.


Objective Studies suggest that parents of NICU infants are at increased risk of mental health disorders. We sought to characterize this risk using a large database. Study design The Military Health System was used to retrospectively link records between parents and infants admitted to a NICU over 5 years and were matched to similar families without NICU exposure. The total study population included 35,012 infants. Logistic regression was used to estimate the association between NICU exposure and parental mental health diagnoses within 5 years of infant birth. Results Maternal NICU exposure was associated with incident diagnoses of depression (OR: 1.18–1.27, p < 0.0001), anxiety (OR: 1.06–1.18, p = 0.0151), alcohol/opiate dependence (OR: 1.29–1.52, p = 0.0079), and adjustment disorder (OR: 0.97–1.18, p = 0.0224). Paternal NICU exposure was associated with alcohol/opiate dependence (OR: 0.78–1.42, p = 0.0339). Conclusion Parents of NICU infants are at risk of developing mental health disorders. Future work should identify characteristics that predict highest risk to develop effective interventions.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Springer Nature

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital, BJF
Health ResearchTx, LLC, AME
Health ResearchTx, LLC, TMR
Department of Neonatology, Naval Medical Center, CMG
Department of Surgery, Naval Medical Center, RLR
Department of Surgery, Seattle Children’s Hospital, University of Washington, SERT


NICU, infant outcomes, maternal outcomes, paternal outcomes

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2022

This website uses cookies to improve the browsing experience of our users. Please review Auburn University’s Privacy Statement for more information. Accept & Close