I posted recently on the implications of the emerging literature on the economics of mental health in the Irish context. I am currently working on some projects looking at the role of mental health in life-long economic outcomes. One of the first papers from this project is below. It shows a substantial predictive effect childhood distress throughout childhood and adolescence on later trajectories of unemployment and also evidence that this becomes particularly marked during recessions. Apologies for self-promotion but I would like to flag an event we are running in Stirling on this topic on December 5th for which there are still places if people wish to attend. Also people interested in working on this area as a researcher or PhD student please feel free to get in touch.
Mark Egan, Michael Daly, and Liam Delaney
Abstract: The effect of childhood mental health on later unemployment has not yet been established. In this article we assess whether childhood psychological distress places young people at high risk of subsequent unemployment and whether the presence of economic recession strengthens this relationship. This study was based on 19,217 individuals drawn from two nationally-representative British prospective cohort studies; the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) and the National Child Development Study (NCDS). Both cohorts contain rich contemporaneous information detailing the participants’ early life socioeconomic background, household characteristics, and physical health. In adjusted analyses in the LSYPE sample (N = 10,232) those who reported high levels of distress at age 14 were 2 percentage points more likely than those with low distress to be unemployed between ages 16 and 21. In adjusted analyses of the NCDS sample (N = 8985) children rated as having high distress levels by their teachers at age 7 and 11 were 3 percentage points more likely than those with low distress to be unemployed between ages 16 and 23. Our examination of the 1980 UK recession in the NCDS cohort found the difference in average unemployment level between those with high versus low distress rose from 2.6 pct points in the pre-recession period to 3.9 points in the post-recession period. These findings point to a previously neglected contribution of childhood mental health to youth unemployment, which may be particularly pronounced during times of economic recession. Our findings also suggest a further economic benefit to enhancing the provision of mental health services early in life.
In the Irish context, the Growing Up in Ireland study has been conducting research on children and adolescent welfare and health and will (subject to following the group up) be able to examine these findings in the Irish context. As said in the previous post, it is a good time to have a debate about the extent to which enough resources are invested in the development of children in Ireland early in life and particularly to examine outcomes such as resilience and mental health that have not traditionally crossed into economic analysis. The extent to which public investments in mental health remediation services throughout childhood and adolescence might produce a long-lasting flow of psychological and financial benefits is a question that has not been given a great deal of evidence-based debate in the Irish context (with notable exceptions including this excellent project by colleagues at UCD). The emergence of large scale aging cohort study data in the form of the TCD-led TILDA project is another avenue that is starting to show the linkages between mental/physical well-being and economic outcomes throughout life.