School absence linked to mental ill-health


School absence linked to mental ill-health

By Charlotte Fantelli

Youths who often miss school are more likely to suffer mental illness, according to a new ground-breaking study published in the journal Child Development. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University, the University of Florida, the Oregon Social Learning Centre, the Child and Adolescent Services Research Centre, and Johns Hopkins University.

More than 17,000 youths took part in the study which found that those who were frequently absent from school were more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

Not only is it more likely that those with already present mental illness would be absent from school more regularly, what I find most intriguing about the study, is the finding that frequently missing school is associated with a higher prevalence of mental health problems later on in adolescence.

Jeffrey Wood, associate professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, commented "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,"

The study found that mental health problems in later adolescence correlated with absenteeism in younger years.

"The findings can help inform the development of programs to reduce school absenteeism," suggests Wood.

"School personnel in middle schools and high schools could benefit from knowing that mental health issues and school absenteeism each influence the other over time. Helping students address mental health issues may in turn help prevent the emergence of chronic absenteeism. At the same time, working to help students who are developing a pattern of chronic absenteeism come to school more consistently may help prevent psychiatric problems."

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