Risk of mental disorders later in life potentially higher in kids of low-income families

November 20, 2020

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Aarhus University and the University of Manchester have investigated the link between the socio-economic position of parents and the risk of children developing mental disorders later in life.

As research data, the project employed a cohort of roughly one million Danish children born between 1980 and 2000. The income of their parents was measured in the year of birth as well as when the children were 5, 10 and 15. Five income brackets were utilised in each measurement point, enabling the researchers also to measure income fluctuation during childhood.

The mental health of the children included in the dataset was monitored from the age of 15 until mental disorder diagnosis or the end of 2016, and thus the longest follow-up was until the age of 37. Data on mental disorder diagnoses were obtained from the Danish psychiatric register. In other words, the study subjects identified this way had ended up in treatment at a psychiatric hospital or outpatient clinic due to mental health problems. The overall follow-up period in the study was carried out from 1995 to 2016.

The results have been published in the BMC Medicine journal.

"Our study demonstrated that the longer children grew up in families with low-income parents, the greater their risk was of developing a mental disorder," says Christian Hakulinen, university lecturer in health psychology at the University of Helsinki.

One quarter of those born in the lowest parental income quintile developed a mental disorder

Based on the study findings, 25.2% of children born into the lowest parental income quintile developed a clinically diagnosed mental disorder by the time they turned 37. Correspondingly, 13.5% of children born in the top parental income quintile developed a mental disorder in the same period of time.

"From among the mental disorders studied, the only exception was eating disorders. In their case, low parental income was associated with a lower risk of developing an eating disorder," Hakulinen says.

The results show that the longer children lived in low-income families, the greater their risk was of developing a mental health disorder.

"We observed that a third of the children who lived in low-income families throughout their childhood were later diagnosed with a mental disorder. At the same time, 12% of the children who grew up in the top income quintile were later diagnosed with a mental disorder," Hakulinen says.

More measures in childhood to prevent mental disorders?

Although the study focused on Danish families, Hakulinen believes the findings can be used to draw conclusions also in the context of other Nordic countries, since our healthcare systems are fairly similar in the treatment of mental disorders.

"Mental disorders that reduce functional capacity are typically treated in secondary care in both Denmark and the rest of the Nordic countries, particularly if they appear in early adulthood," says Hakulinen.

The results indicate that the socioeconomic conditions in childhood are associated with the onset of mental disorders. In fact, Hakulinen would like attention to be paid to the prevention and treatment of such disorders already in childhood.

"Measures focused on childhood, such as interventions in support of parenthood, could benefit low-income families in particular. This would make it possible to tackle psycho-social risk factors, which financial challenges typically aggravate," Hakulinen notes.

University of Helsinki

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.