Childhood Mental Health Disorders May Lead to Adulthood Issues


A new study suggests that children diagnosed with mental health disorders are more likely to experience problems in adulthood. Researchers from Duke University found that children with a mental illness were six times more likely to have trouble as young adults, compared to those without psychiatric disorders, a news release from Duke Medicine reports.

The research indicated those children that experienced mild or passing bouts of depression, anxiety and/or behavioral issues – had increased odds of facing issues as adults. Even those children that did not meet the full diagnostic criteria, according to the report.

The issues they might face include:

  • Criminal Charges
  • Addiction
  • Early Pregnancies
  • Education Problems
  • Residential Instability
  • Employment Issues

The findings come from 1,420 children ages 9 to 16, all of which were assessed up to six occasions for common psychiatric diagnoses, the article reports. The researchers were able to re-assess 1,273 of the children, now adults, between the ages of 19 to 26.

“When we went into this, it was an open question: Are these psychiatric diagnoses in childhood impairing in the moment, but something people recover from and go on?” said lead author William Copeland, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke. “We weren’t expecting to find these protracted difficulties into adulthood.”

“When it comes to key psychiatric problems — depression, anxiety, behavior disorders — there are successful interventions and prevention programs,” said Copeland, Ph.D. “So we do have the tools to address these, but they aren’t implemented widely. The burden is then later seen in adulthood, when these problems become costly public health and social issues.”

The findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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