Original Research

Prevalence of iron deficiency in a South African adolescent inpatient psychiatric population: Rates, risk factors and recommendations

Theonie du Plessis, Karis Moxley, Anusha Lachman
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 25 | a1347 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v25i0.1347 | © 2019 Theonie du Plessis, Karis Moxley, Anusha Lachman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 November 2018 | Published: 16 July 2019

About the author(s)

Theonie du Plessis, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Karis Moxley, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Anusha Lachman, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Severe iron deficiency is associated with anaemia, but iron deficiency with normal haemoglobin (Hb) may also affect morbidity and quality of life and contribute to psychiatric illness onset and severity. Psychiatric presentations in adolescence are often indicative of serious long-term morbidity, and addressing contributing health risk factors, such as iron deficiency, is important.

Objectives: To determine rates of iron deficiency in a South African inpatient adolescent psychiatric population and possible associations between psychiatric diagnosis and iron deficiency risk factors.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all adolescent patients (13–18 years old) who were admitted to the Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit at Tygerburg Hospital (Cape Town, South Africa) during 2016. Patient records were limited to those with haemoglobin and ferritin levels available, as well as a psychiatric disorder diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The final sample consisted of 93 patients.

Results: Of all participants, 7.6% were anaemic, while 22.6% were iron deficient. We found 29% of our population to have anaemia in the absence of iron deficiency. Gender was the only statistically significant correlate, with adolescent females at particular risk of compromised iron status as indicated by a low ferritin level (45% of female sample).

Conclusion: Iron deficiency rates remain a relevant health concern, and testing Hb alone is inadequate to assess iron status in this population. Ferritin is a necessary additional parameter and should be included in the usual medical workup.


Keywords

Iron deficiency; Anaemia; Psychiatric illness; Adolescent; Risk factors

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