Children living with someone who has mental health issues two-thirds more likely to experience similar difficulties

The risk of children developing mental ill-health increases significantly when they have lived with someone who also has a common mental health disorder, research has found.

The study, from Cardiff University, showed children who had grown up living with someone with mental health difficulties were 63% more likely to experience any mental health issue, which includes but is not limited to anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and personality disorders.

Researchers drew upon anonymised hospital admission and GP records which tracked 190,000 children living in Wales from birth up to age 15. It recorded mental health symptoms, diagnoses and treatments, and analysed mental health issues and developmental disorders such as learning disabilities or attention deficit.

Lead author Dr Emily Lowthian who conducted the research at Cardiff University’s Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), said: “Our findings demonstrate that even before the pandemic hit, mental ill-health and a wide array of associated symptoms were common experiences for many children and young people…”

Dr Lowthian, now a Research Officer and Data Scientist at Swansea University Medical School added: “We know that childhood mental health issues transgress into adulthood, so it’s vital that effective interventions are in place to support young people at this formative time in their lives. We’d like to see policy makers use COVID-19 as a catalyst to respond to our findings and implement support strategies for children and families in Wales.”

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