Factors in Kids that Predict Mental Illness

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The mental health of an eight year old could predict her likelihood for psychiatric treatment as an adult. A new survey on the mental health of a large group of eight year olds revealed those likely to require psychiatric treatment in their teens and early adulthood.

This begs the question, “Should mental health checkups for children be added to well-baby care and in-school screenings?

David Gyllenberg, MD at the University of Helsinki, and lead author of the study explains:

“The early detection of children who are showing psychiatric symptoms or are at the risk of a mental disorder is crucial, but introducing 'mental health checkups' as part of health care in schools is not altogether simple.”

6,000 children tracked in long-term study

In his study, 6,000 Finnish children were tracked from 1989 with follow-ups occurring at age 12 and 25. The use of psychotropic drugs and the need for psychiatric hospital treatment were associated with symptoms reported when the subjects were eight years old. Symptoms of depression were later linked to treatment of depression for both boys and girls. Non-intact family background was also linked with a range of psychiatric care in the teenage years and early adulthood for both sexes.

Predictive values were different for boys and girls. For girls, symptoms ofdepression and anxiety seem to predict the need for later treatment. For boys, behavioral problems like acting out and aggressive behavior indicative the need for future intervention.

“Boys showed symptoms directed towards their environment while girls showed more introverted symptoms,” pointed out Gyllenberg. He recommended that if future research supports the findings, gender specific screenings could be useful for healthcare providers and schools.