July 12 (UPI) -- Babies born early have a harder time finding romance once they become adults, a study says.
Adults who were born prematurely or at low birth weight are 28 percent less likely to get married or enter a long-term relationship than those born at full term, according to research published Friday in JAMA Network Open. Adults born preterm are also 22 percent less likely to have children.
"Our research has shown that those who were born preterm were less likely to form romantic relationships, to have had sexual relations and to experience parenthood than those born full term," Marina Mendonca, a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Warwick and study author, told UPI.
For the study, the researchers reviewed as many as 4.4 million adults lives and found those born under 32 weeks had reduced chances for sexual relationships. And compared to adults born full term, those born under 28 weeks of gestation were 3.2 times less likely to have sex.
"What we know from previous studies is that children born preterm have poorer social interactions -- they are more often withdrawn and shy, social excluded -- e.g. victims of bullying -- and less likely to take risks in adolescence," Mendonca said. "Our study suggests that these characteristics seem to persist into adulthood making it harder for preterm adults to form relationships, such as getting married or having children."
One study by the National Institutes of Health showed romantic relationships can increase a person's mental well-being. But since adults who were born preterm tend to be more timid and shy, they take fewer risks -- which often keeps them out of long-term relationships.
But for those born preterm who do establish relationships as adults, they tend to make long-lasting connections, the researchers say. In fact, those who go on to make love connections stay in relationships just as long as adults who were born full term.
"As preterm children tend to be more timid and shy, supporting them making friends and being integrated in their peer group may help them to later find romantic partners, have sexual relationships and to become parents, all of which enhances wellbeing," Mendonca said.