Childhood mental health and future employment in the welfare state

May 2017: PWHS graduate student Anita Minh has been awarded a Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for her PhD research, supervised by PWHS Co-Director Chris McLeod.

Mental illness affects society as much as it does the individuals who experience it. Population health research consistently finds that people who experience symptoms of depression and anxiety in childhood are more likely to have poor academic outcomes and drop out of school, negatively impacting their chances for employment. Poor and disadvantaged children suffer disproportionately. Yet while social inequalities in mental health occurs in all high-income societies, the extent of inequality and its impact on future employment varies substantially. These cross-national differences imply that the children’s mental health and their later employment outcomes are not attributable solely to health selection, but are related to the political and economic institutions that define health and labour market entry. This research uses longitudinal data from five countries in North America and Europe to examine how differences in the provision of social protections and labour institutions produce inequalities in health and employment from childhood to early adulthood. Regression methods will be used to identify youth’s mental health trajectories and to examine the association with employment. Cross national differences will be examined using comparative methods. The findings will contextualize health selection and youth unemployment within social, political and economic settings, helping governments to identify systematic and context-specific barriers to youth labour market entry.

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