Mental health issues in childhood can impact future health behaviors

August 17, 2020
Miranda Hester
Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

Mental health can have a major impact on a person’s life. A report looks at how mental health problems in early life can have a toll on some health behaviors.

Many experiences in childhood have an impact on health outcomes later in life. A new report in JAMA Network Open looks at whether mental health problems in either childhood or adolescence are connected to certain positive health behaviors in adolescence.1

The researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which was a UK-representative longitudinal study of people born in either 2000 or 2001. The data were collected in 2008, as Wave 4, and 2015, as Wave 6. The data from Wave 4 included data on parent-reported mental health issue in children aged 7 years. Wave 6 data included health behaviors and self-reported mental health problems from children aged 14 years. The health behaviors examined were sleep duration; consumption of fruits, vegetables, and soft drinks; and social media.

The cohort included data on 9369 participants. In comparison to participants who reported having no mental health problems during either Wave, investigators found that teenagers who reported mental health program at 14 years of age were less likely to consume fruit (odds ratio [OR], 0.55; 95% CI, 0.46-0.65) and vegetables (OR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.52-0.83), achieve at least 9 hours of sleep (OR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.34-0.45), and reported an increased use of social media. Children who reported mental health problems at both Wave 4 and Wave 6 were found to be less likely to eat fruit (OR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.26-0.58) and vegetables (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.35-0.91), achieve at least 9 hours of sleep (OR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.51-0.90), and increased social media use than their peers who didn't report any problems.

The researchers concluded that mental health problems or depressive symptoms at either 7 and 14 years of age or only 14 years of age were linked to certain health behaviors in the teenage years. They said that their findings are important because health behaviors can deteriorate and become habits. Mental health problems that will last into adulthood often make their first appearance in adolescence.

Reference

1. Hoare E, Werneck A, Stubbs B et al. Association of child and adolescent mental health with adolescent health behaviors in the UK millennium cohort. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2011381. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11381