‘Children of the New Century’ sets out mental health findings from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS); a three-year project following a large sample of children born at the start of the 21st century.
The report utilises the results of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) taken from the perspectives of both teachers and parents, to assess the prevalence of severe mental health problems. For 11-year-olds in the UK in 2012, this proportion made up over 10% as assessed by parents, with as many as 28% having severe difficulties in at least one of the areas of conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, emotional problems and peer problems, as assessed by the SDQ.
Parent education and occupation, and family income were found to have an impact on the prevalence of mental health problems, with 17% of 11-year-olds from the bottom fifth of the income distribution having severe problems in 2012. This means that children from low-income families are 4 times more likely to experience mental health problems than children from higher-income families, with this difference being more significant amongst children in comparison to research on this in adults. There were also notable higher rates among mixed-race girls and white boys. Severe mental health problems were less common where the child’s family consists of two biological parents.
The MCS at this time had information from children at ages 3, 5, 7, and 11, and so from this found that over a fifth of children showed a severe mental health problem at one or more of the ages surveyed. 3.6% of children were deemed to have persistent severe mental health problems, with this being more common amongst boys than girls. In general, mental health problems are twice as common in boys than they are in girls. More research is needed to look into the causes of these mental health problems and how they might be prevented.
“Prevention is better than curing. However, applying this principle is often more difficult than it should be. Our health and education systems are not designed for early intervention and upstream solutions and this leads to disproportionate spending at the treatment stage.
On a very small scale, Evolve has shown what can be achieved when health and education outcomes are integrated and delivered upstream in primary schools. This model needs to be grown and its evidence extrapolated to demonstrate the sheer financial scale of the opportunity that could be realised by both local authorities and policymakers alike.”
– John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director
To read the full report, click here.