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The association between economic inactivity and mental health among young people: a longitudinal study of young adults who are not in employment, education or training

  • E. Power (a1), M. Clarke (a1) (a2), I. Kelleher (a1), H. Coughlan (a1), F. Lynch (a3), D. Connor (a1) (a4), C. Fitzpatrick (a5), M. Harley (a1) and M. Cannon (a1) (a6)...



Increasing rates of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) are a cause of concern both in Ireland and internationally, but little longitudinal research has examined the link between psychiatric disorder in young people and NEET status.


The Challenging Times (CT) Study is a longitudinal, population-based study of psychopathology among 212 young Irish people. Clinical interviews were performed at two time points: 12–15 years and 19–24 years.


NEET status in young adulthood was associated with a sevenfold increased risk of current suicidal ideation. This result was independent of prior adolescent mental disorder. NEET young people had a fourfold increased odds of being diagnosed with a mental disorder in childhood or early adolescence compared with their economically active peers. NEET young people were at an almost threefold increased risk of any mental health disorder a twofold increased risk of anxiety disorder and threefold increased odds of suicide attempts over their lifetime compared with economically active peers.


NEET young people are at increased risk for mental disorder and suicidal ideation. The association is bidirectional, as prior mental disorder in adolescence appeared to account for much of the association between NEET status and current mental health problems. However, economic inactivity conveys an increased risk for suicidal ideation over and above that due to prior disorder. Our findings provide a compelling economic and societal argument for early intervention and treatment of mental disorder and the importance of vocational interventions for reducing suicide risk in young adults.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Professor M. Cannon, Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Building, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. (Email:


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