Childhood Mental Health Issues Affects Well-Being Of Young Adults, Research Shows

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Children with mental health problems are prone to experiencing poor mental and physical health, increased risk of social isolation, lower educational achievements, financial challenges, and substance abuse in their late teens and early 20s, as per a study conducted by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. The research analyzed data from over 5,000 teenagers and young adults in Ireland.

Children with mental issues at increased risk of poor mental health

A study published in JAMA Network Open, based on the “Growing up in Ireland” research, tracked the mental health of 5,141 individuals from ages nine to 13. While 72.5% had no significant mental health problems, over 1,400 participants experienced mental health or behavioral issues during childhood.

The study’s lead author from RCSI Department of Psychiatry Dr. Niamh Dooley said that mental health indicators frequently exhibit fluctuations during childhood and adolescence, making it unwise to place excessive emphasis on symptom levels at a single time point. Our research endeavors focused on examining youngsters who consistently reported mental health concerns, irrespective of whether they fulfilled the criteria for an official diagnosis.

The study investigated the impact of childhood mental health patterns on various outcomes in late teens and early adulthood. It examined factors like academic performance, social isolation, health service utilization, physical health problems (like obesity and sleep issues), substance abuse (alcohol and smoking), and overall well-being. The researchers also considered different types of childhood symptoms, including internalized symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety), externalized symptoms (e.g., behavioral issues and hyperactivity), or a combination of both.

Teens with externalizing symptoms likely to abuse drugs

The study reveals that children displaying externalizing symptoms are more likely to engage in heavy substance use as young adults. On the other hand, those with internalizing symptoms face a greater risk of experiencing poor physical health during their late teens and early 20s. According to Dr. Dooley, this research highlights the long-term consequences of childhood mental health issues, impacting various aspects of adult functioning. Additionally, it points out that certain groups, especially females with persistent internalizing symptoms throughout childhood, are particularly susceptible to poor physical health in young adulthood.

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