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


LONG BEACH, Long Island (WABC) — As the kids on Long Island enjoy a fall day, a deeper problem could be brewing.

A new study found that children who were in their mother’s womb during Superstorm Sandy could be dramatically more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and ADHD.

“Of course something I would worry about as a parent now,” said Juliana Larossa-Dzerns.

Yoko Nomura, a professor of psychology at Queens College, said they did not expect the scale of the study.

Nomura led the study, titled “Stress Pregnancy” or “SIPS.” She came up with the idea after seeing low-income families, including pregnant women, taking shelter at the college gym during Superstorm Sandy.

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“Some women worry that their family member or older child cannot eat. They just don’t have the money and don’t know how to survive,” Nomura said.

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

According to Nomura, stress during pregnancy affects the development of a child’s mental health and is a key factor in the high rate of mental health disorders.

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

Participants come back to campus to be tested and studied. Every year on the child’s birthday, a mother would leave him in a room where he would be observed through a two-way mirror.

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

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

Eight years after Sandy, COVID came and brought even more stress – so what does this mean for the same children in the womb during Superstorm Sandy?

“We don’t know if that will accelerate the negative trend or if it will be helpful because they are willing to deal with it. We don’t know yet,” Nomura said.

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