Title: Study Finds Childhood Mental Health Issues Linked to Adverse Outcomes in Late Teens and Early 20s
According to a new study conducted by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, children with mental health issues are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health in their late teens and early 20s. They are also at a higher risk of social isolation, low educational attainment, financial difficulties, and heavy substance use. The research, which analyzed data from over 5,000 children and young adults in Ireland, sheds light on the long-lasting impact of childhood mental health problems.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, utilized data from the ‘Growing up in Ireland’ study. Researchers from Ireland, the UK, and Australia followed the mental health trends of 5,141 individuals from ages 9 to 13. The majority of participants (72.5%) reported no significant mental health difficulties. However, over 1,400 individuals showed signs of mental health or behavioral issues during childhood.
Dr. Niamh Dooley, the lead author of the study, emphasized the importance of investigating children with persistent reports of mental health symptoms, regardless of an official diagnosis. The study examined the impact of childhood mental health patterns on various outcomes in late adolescence and early adulthood. These outcomes included educational attainment, social isolation, healthcare utilization, physical health issues, substance use, and overall well-being.
The research also took into account different types of childhood symptoms, such as internalizing symptoms (depression and anxiety), externalizing symptoms (hyperactivity and behavioral problems), or a combination of both. The findings revealed that children with externalizing symptoms had an increased risk of heavy substance use as young adults, while those with internalizing symptoms were at the highest risk of poor physical health in their late teens and early 20s.
Dr. Dooley highlighted that mental health problems in childhood are associated with a wide range of functional issues in adulthood, extending beyond mental health. Females with persistent symptoms, particularly internalizing symptoms, had significantly higher rates of poor physical health in young adulthood. Additionally, the data showed that individuals with childhood mental health issues were equally likely to encounter educational and economic difficulties in young adulthood as they were to face further mental health problems.
The study’s co-author, Professor Mary Cannon, emphasized the need for improved screening and treatment of childhood mental health problems to prevent long-term adverse outcomes. Understanding which children are at the greatest risk of poor outcomes will inform and enhance early screening and support approaches.
The study was funded by the Health Research Board and aligns with the “Sharing the Vision” mental health policy recommendations, focusing on improving the transition of young people from child to adult mental health services.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published on RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences’ website. AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of the information presented.