Children adopted from abroad 'more likely to suffer from mental illness'

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Children adopted from abroad are far more likely to suffer from mental illness and attempt suicide than the rest of the population in their new country, research published today suggests.

Children adopted from abroad are far more likely to suffer from mental illness and attempt suicide than the rest of the population in their new country, research published today suggests.

A study of 11,300 "inter-country adoptees" found many felt singled out because they were of a different ethnic background. They often battled to overcome the setbacks of their early childhood.

The result is a risk of depressive illness that is up to four times the level of their compatriots and a chance of committing suicide that is 3.6 times higher, according to the medical journal, The Lancet.

The study, run in Sweden using statistical records, found foreign adoptees were more likely to become socially maladjusted and fall into a cycle of criminal offending.

Dr Anders Hjerin, who co-ordinated the study, said the group were five times more likely to be addicted to drugs and up to three times more likely to commit crimes or abuse alcohol.

He added: "The issue is not whether adoptees are more likely to have mental health disorders and have difficulty adjusting socially but rather why these difficulties exist and what to do about them."

The study found the background of the adoptive parents, often middle-class and well- educated, seemed to have little influence on the likelihood of the adoptee developing problems in adolescence. Much of the "damage" was said to have been suffered in their countries of birth, whether through deprivation and conflict or the prejudice of their original parents.

The report said: "Extreme poverty and malnutrition are common in many countries of origin, which might affect [the child] in such a way that development of the brain is irreversibly damaged. Addictive behaviour, psychiatric illness and intellectual handicaps might also be reasons for giving a child up for adoption."

The study is published as laws in Britain on overseas adoption are being tightened.

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