Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Unhappy children, unhappy adults?

A miserable childhood is likely to result in greater levels of depression and anxiety in middle age. So suggests a recent study that followed over 7000 people born between 1950 and 1955. Undertaken by researchers at King's College, London, the study showed that children who had been described by teachers as 'miserable' or 'unhappy' were five times more likely to be sick and off-work in their forties.

Of course, such a study does not imply causality but, nonetheless, the connection is interesting. Nurture (or rather lack of it) as opposed to nature, especially as the study showed that those children who were physically unwell during childhood demonstrated no difference in rate of being sick in middle-aged.

I'd probably throw the findings of this paper in that my childhood was reasonably happy and my health is probably less than ideal now. How does this fit in with your experience?

If you want to know more, you can read the abstract for the paper from the British Journal of Psychiatry here and the BBC News article as detailed below.


Henderson, M., Hotopf, M., & Leon, D. A. (2009). Childhood temperament and long-term sickness absence in adult life. British Journal of Psychiatry, 194, 220-223.


Awake In Rochester said...

Interesting. I would say that my early childhood was happy. Then something occurred (family member sick with cancer & died years later) so from about age 13 to 18 I had anxiety, and some unhappiness. My early adult hood was reasonably happy. Then something occurred (3 family members died within a short period of time), and my 40's have stunk- (Depression and increased anxiety.) So it's a mixed bag & seems to depend on illness or death of family members. So for me it seem to be circumstantial. But once I'm down it's very difficult to get up again.

Since 3 of my family members are very elderly, I better figure out how to deal with death, or I'm going to be in trouble soon.

Psychgrad said...

Interesting study. My bias is that most kids that are miserable or unhappy are facing unhealthy environments at home or school. I find the delayed effects of prolonged stress interesting. But there are so many layers in life/genetics that can come to influence health as an adult.

I was a relatively healthy child...though I remember having a lot of headaches. I think it was home environment because I don't have many headaches today and am still relatively healthy.