Childhood and Adolescent
Mental Health

Precision Mental Health is examining long-term mental health trajectories; primarily, the association between childhood adversity and later-life mental health. Childhood adversity is well documented as being associated with greater levels of mental distress in later-life. Yet, individuals who experience adversity in early-life do not always experience mental health issues in later-life – suggesting that there are factors that help individuals maintain positive mental health despite difficulties in childhood. We call these factors, ‘resilience resources’, and PMH is examining what resilience resources promote positive mental health in adults.

The Data — The 1946 British Birth Cohort Study

PMH's work on long-term mental health trajectories is based on the Medical Research Council - 1946 National Survey of Health and Development. This is the oldest of the British birth cohort studies, and it has informed UK healthcare, education, and social policy for more than 70 years. Today, with study members in their seventies, this study offers unique data to explore the long-term biological and social processes of aging, and how aging is affected by factors acting across the whole of life.

Resilience Resources & Adversity

Despite strong links between early-life negative events and later-life negative mental health, some individuals do not experience negative mental health in later-life. What are these factors that protect an individual’s mental health despite negative early life-life events? This is the work of PMH.

Early-Life Adversity

PMH is examining a range of adversities in a variety of combinations since adversities are unlikely to occur in isolation. Adversity such as:

  • Maltreatment

  • Low Parental Concern for Education

  • Parental Divorce

  • Maternal Separation

  • Parental Death

  • Low Affection of Parents

Resilience Resources

PMH is examining a range of resilience resources such as:

  • Physical Activity

  • Occupational Status

  • Education

  • Social Support

  • Neighbourhood Cohesion

Resilience Resources that Promote Positive Mental Health

Our research demonstrated that the resilience resources of education, social support, and neighbourhood cohesion promote positive mental health in the face of childhood adversity. Of these three factors, social support shows the greatest positive impact on mental health, followed by neighbourhood cohesion and then education.   That social support promotes positive mental health in the life course presents opportunities to foster greater mental health resilience in later-life. In the context of older adults, this is a particularly important finding given the tendency for social spheres to diminish as one ages. It may be possible to facilitate greater interaction for adults through increased funding to venues to foster greater group interaction and networking, or through the use of technology.