Childhood Mental Disparities Affect Physical Health in Future

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : February 19, 2021

New research suggests that mental illness in children can cause various other physical illnesses later in the future as they grew up. This study’s findings indicate that those who suffered a lot in their childhood with emotional and mental disparities are likely to be more physically ill. 

The findings of the study were published in the online journal JAMA Psychiatry on the 17th of February. 

The lead of the research and a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University in Durham, Jasmin Wertz explained that childhood illness can be a factor to develop further physical ailments in the future, however, it will be easy to detect individuals who are at risk of physical illnesses much earlier in life.

Childhood Mental Disparities Affect Physical Health in Future

In a university news release, Werts said that it is possible as people might intervene to improve their later physical health and aging if their mental health gets improved both in childhood and adolescence. 

Wertz and her team conducted two studies related to the topic and one of them was on roughly 1,000 people in New Zealand. These people were born in 1972 and 1973. The study analyzed their data from their birth until they passed the age of 45. 

From their analysis, the team could find that people who have a history of mental illness conditions like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and schizophrenia were aging faster by their middle age, and even looked older than their peers. They also had significant dysfunctioning in their sensory, motor, and mental abilities. 

The researchers wanted to solely focus on the childhood mental disparities in those who enrolled in their study. So, beforehand their study, they excluded people who have certain other health issues like obesity, smoking, certain medications, and a previous history of physical illness to reach an ultimate result.

The researchers also conducted a second study, in which they collected 30 years’ data spanning between 1988 to 2018 from hospital records of 2.3 million people aged 10-60. 

This further study also showed a similar result and concluded that mental health during childhood is strongly linked with medical and neurological issues during adulthood.  

Terrie Moffit, the senior author of both studies, and professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University said that people who experience psychiatric conditions at their younger ages will experience excess age-related physical diseases and neurodegenerative diseases when they reach adulthood. 

After winding up their studies, researchers recommend the prevention of many problems related to health in adulthood through a higher consideration in the prompt treatment of mental illness in the early years of life.  

Moffit said that he believes investing in the treatment of young people’s mental health issues with more resources is a window of opportunity to prevent future physical diseases in their adulthood. He added that children who have mental issues are going to be costly medical patients in their later life. 

Moffit’s remarks are welcomed by other experts who weren’t involved with the study as well.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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