Two recent studies have noted that individuals with early-life mental health problems are likely to enter adulthood with physical diseases and advanced aging. “The same people who experience psychiatric conditions when they are young go on to experience excess age-related physical diseases and neurodegenerative diseases when they are older adults,” says Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, who is the senior author on both studies.
The study tested and monitored the health and wellbeing of a thousand New Zealanders, born in 1972 and 1973, from their birth to past the age of 45. Of the original 1037 cohort participants, 997 were still alive at the age of 45 years, of whom 938 (94%) were assessed. Results showed that participants who had experienced mental health illness during their early life exhibited a faster pace of biological aging. Individuals experienced more difficulties with hearing, vision, balance, and motor functioning. They also experienced more cognitive difficulties and were rated as looking older.
A related study by the same group of researchers had examined 30 years of hospital records for 2.3 million New Zealanders aged 10 to 60 from 1988 to 2018. In this study too, researchers found a strong relationship between early-life mental health diagnoses and later-life medical and neurological illnesses. Additionally, it was shown that young individuals with mental disorders were more likely to die earlier than normal people.
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Jasmin Wertz, Avshalom Caspi, Antony Ambler, Jonathan Broadbent, Robert J. Hancox, HonaLee Harrington, Sean Hogan, Renate M. Houts, Joan H. Leung, Richie Poulton, Suzanne C. Purdy, Sandhya Ramrakha, Line Jee Hartmann Rasmussen, Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Peter R. Thorne, Graham A. Wilson, Terrie E. Moffitt. Association of History of Psychopathology With Accelerated Aging at Midlife. JAMA Psychiatry, 2021; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4626 1
Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Stephanie D’Souza, Barry J. Milne, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt. Longitudinal Associations of Mental Disorders With Physical Diseases and Mortality Among 2.3 Million New Zealand Citizens. JAMA Network Open, 2021; 4 (1): e2033448 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.33448 2
- Wertz J, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Association of History of Psychopathology With Accelerated Aging at Midlife. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 17, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4626 [↩]
- Richmond-Rakerd LS, D’Souza S, Milne BJ, Caspi A, Moffitt TE. Longitudinal Associations of Mental Disorders With Physical Diseases and Mortality Among 2.3 Million New Zealand Citizens. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1):e2033448. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.33448 [↩]