Recently a research was conducted by the University of Helsinki, Aarhus University and the University of Manchester to understand the link between the risk of children developing mental disorders and socio-economic position of parents.
The research data, roughly included one million Danish children born between 1980 and 2000. They measured the income of their parents in the year of birth as well as when the children were at the age of 5, 10 and 15.
They categorized the groups in five brackets that were utilized in each measurement point, permitting the researchers to measure income fluctuation during childhood. The mental health of the children included in the dataset was observed from the age of 15 until mental disorder diagnosis in the end of 2016, and the longest follow-up was until the age of 37.
The results of the study were published in the BioMed Central (BMC) Medicine journal.
Christian Hakulinen, a university lecturer in health psychology at the University of Helsinki said, “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.”
The study findings said, 25.2 per cent of children who were born into the lowest parental income group developed a clinically diagnosed mental disorder by the time they turned 37. In the same way, 13.5 per cent of children who were born in the top parental income group 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 said.
Therefore it was concluded that the longer children lived in low-income families, the greater their risk was of developing a mental health disorder.
Hakulinen told, “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 per cent of the children who grew up in the top income quintile were later diagnosed with a mental disorder.”
Although the study was 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 indicated that the socio-economic 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.