Study: Children in the womb during Superstorm Sandy could have higher risk of mental health issues

LONG BEACH, Long Island (WABC) — As children on Long Island are enjoying a fall day, a deeper issue could be brewing.

A new study revealed that children that were in their mother’s wombs during Superstorm Sandy could have dramatically higher rates of depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

“Obviously something as a parent, I would now be concerned about,” said Juliana Larossa-Dzerns.

Queens College Psychology professor Yoko Nomura says they didn’t expect the study’s magnitude.

Nomura led the study called ‘stress pregnancy’ or ‘SIPS.’ She came up with the idea after witnessing low-income families, including pregnant women seeking shelter at the college gym during Superstorm Sandy.

“Some women worried about their family member, older child not being able to eat. They just don’t have the money and they don’t know how to survive,” said Nomura.

Superstorm Sandy hit 10 years ago, killing 48 New Yorkers and damaging thousands of Long Island homes. It led to massive flooding and power outages, causing extreme stress.

Nomura says that stress during pregnancy impacts a child’s mental health development and is a key factor for the high levels of mental health disorders.

“If you’re exposed to Superstorm Sandy, you have 60 times more likely to develop ADHD,” Nomura said.

Participants come back to campus to be tested and studied. Each year on the child’s birthday, a mom would leave them in a room where they are observed through a two-way mirror.

“We see their emotional development, we see their fine and gross motor development We see cognitive function development in there,:” added Nomura.

Clinical psychologists also take saliva and hair to test hormone levels.

Eight years after Sandy, COVID came, bringing more stress – so what does this mean for the same children in their mother’s womb during Superstorm Sandy?

“We don’t know if that is going to accelerate the negative trend or it will be helpful because they are prepared to handle that. We don’t know yet,” said Nomura.

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