New research finds that the family and neighborhood environment play a significant role in the mental health of a child.
A team of researchers from Sweden and the U.S. reviewed the role of the family environment and neighborhood factors on mental health outcomes among 500,000 children in Sweden.
The study has been published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
The research includes highly detailed data on the children and covers a timespan of more than a decade.
A total of 542,195 children were tracked for 11 years for incident internalizing (anxiety and mood) and externalizing (ADHD and conduct) disorders. During the course of the study, 4.8 percent of the children developed a psychiatric disorder.
Researchers discovered high neighborhood deprivation was associated with a two-fold higher risk of conduct disorder, a 40 percent increased risk of anxiety disorder and a 20 percent increased risk of mood disorders.
Moderate neighborhood deprivation was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“However, we also found that familial random effects, including both genetic and family environmental factors, accounted for six to eight times as much of the total variation in psychiatric disorders, compared with neighborhood random effects,” said Professor Jan Sundquist, who led the research.
“The estimated risks and random effects indicate that children are strongly affected by both their family and neighborhood environments and that the former seems to be more important at a population level,” Sundquist continued.
One of the strengths of the study is that it based on data from Sweden’s multiple population and health care registers, which are highly complete and valid and, crucially, help to avoid bias from self-reporting.
“With such a rich amount of data at our disposal we have been able carry out a comprehensive study that answers many probing questions about the mental health of young people in Sweden,” added Sundquist.
The researchers believe additional research is necessary to evaluate intervention strategies in early life. In the meantime, Sundquist and his team have suggested that their findings should help shape policies to promote mental health by factoring in potential influences from both family and neighborhood environments.