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Childhood psychological problems create long-term economic losses, study finds
Date:5/13/2010

on the non-economic costs such has lower quality of life.

Researchers also found that people who reported childhood psychological problems were 11 percentage points less likely to marry than their siblings who did not suffer such problems. Even when people in the group do marry, the income earned by their spouse is lower than seen among other couples.

People who reported psychological problems during childhood on average reported about half a year less of schooling than those who did not report problems. The schooling differences were greater among those who reported drug or alcohol problems.

"Not all of the people who have psychological problems during childhood will carry these problems into adulthood," said Smith. "But they are 10 to 20 times more likely than others to have these shortfalls during adulthood. There clearly are large economic costs during adulthood caused by childhood psychological conditions."

The results in the study are drawn from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the largest ongoing study of American families. The study has periodically collected extensive economic and demographic information on a nationally representative sample of about 35,000 people from 5,000 American families over the past 40 years.

Participants in the project were surveyed in 2007 about their childhood psychological and medical history using a module designed by Smith. This survey asked whether study participants had any of 14 important physical illnesses before age 17 and whether they had suffered from depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or other psychological conditions when they were young.

Researchers were able to test whether their findings were caused by some type of unmeasured family or neighborhood impacts by examining the life course of siblings where one reported childhood psychological problems and another did not.

Smith and co-author Gillian C. Smith of Washington University School of Medicine in
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-541-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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