New research published in the British
Journal of Psychiatry shows that people who experience mental
illness in early adulthood face a range of negative economic
outcomes at the age of 30.
study, published in the August issue of the British Journal
of Psychiatry, found that people who had episodes of
psychiatric disorder between the ages of 18 and 25 were – by the
age of 30 – less likely to be in full-time employment, were earning
less money, and had a lower standard of living than people who had
not experienced mental health problems.
Dr Sheree Gibb and colleagues from the
University of Otago in New Zealand studied 950 people born in
Christchurch, a city in the country’s South Island. At age 21 and
25, the participants were asked whether they suffered from symptoms
of mental illness, including depression, anxiety disorder, phobias,
and drug or alcohol misuse. They were also asked about their
employment, income, and educational achievements.
The researchers found that psychiatric
disorders during young adulthood were common, with half (50.1%) of
the participants experiencing at least one psychiatric disorder
(depression, anxiety disorder or substance dependence) between the
ages of 18 and 25. Of these, over half (54.5%) experienced two or
more episodes of illness.
After controlling for other factors, the
researchers found that those had experienced psychiatric disorder
were significantly less likely to be in paid employment, were more
likely to be working part time, were more likely to be receiving
welfare, and were earning less money than those who had not had any
The effects were most significant among people
who had experienced more than one episode of psychiatric disorder.
For example, people who had experienced four or more episodes of
illness between the ages of 18 and 25 were four times more likely
to be welfare dependent than those who had experienced no episodes
(19.4% compared to 4.7%). Similarly, those with four or more
episodes of psychiatric disorder worked almost 6 hours fewer per
week than those with no psychiatric disorder, and earned NZ$166
less per week.
Dr Gibb said: “Our study reveals that
psychiatric disorder during young adulthood is common, and is
predictive of a range of negative life outcomes including reduced
participation in the workforce, lower income, and a lower standard
of living. This suggests a need for further improvements in the
diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness, in order to reduce
these negative outcomes.”
Dr Gibb continued: “Our study also showed that
those people most at risk of negative outcomes are not those who
experience any specific type of psychiatric disorder, but rather
those people who experience more than one episode or period of
illness. We therefore need to develop targeted interventions to
help people who experience repeated episodes of illness.”
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
Gibb SJ, Fergusson DM and Horwood LJ (2010) Burden of psychiatric disorder in young adulthood and life outcomes at age 30, British Journal of Psychiatry, 197: 122-127