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Chronic School Absenteeism Linked to Mental Health Problems

THURSDAY, Dec. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Children who miss school often are more likely to have symptoms of mental health problems as teens, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and colleagues compiled information on 17,000 students in grades 1 through 12.

The study found kids in second through eighth grades with mental health problems, such as antisocial behavior or depression, missed more school days than kids without those issues.

Middle and high school students who missed a lot of school were also more likely to be later diagnosed with mental health issues.

The study is in the journal Child Development.

"We've long known that students who are frequently absent from school are more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders, but less clear is the reason why," said lead study author Jeffrey Wood, an associate professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, in a Society for Research in Child Development news release. "These two aspects of youths' adjustment may at times exacerbate one another, leading over the course of time to more of each."

Because chronically missing school might influence the development of mental health issues and vice versa, researchers said programs that treat both mental health issues and school absenteeism are important.

More information

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America provides more information on childhood anxiety and depression.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, Dec. 22, 2011

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