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Previous studies have documented associations between mental and physical health problems in cross-sectional studies, yet little is known about these relationships over time or the specificity of these associations. The aim of the current study was to examine the relationship between mental health problems in childhood at age 8 years and physical disorders in adulthood at ages 18–23 years.
Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between childhood mental health problems, reported by child, parent and teacher, and physical disorders diagnosed by a physician in early adulthood.
Significant linkages emerged between childhood mental health problems and obesity, atopic eczema, epilepsy and asthma in early adulthood. Specifically, conduct problems in childhood were associated with a significantly increased likelihood of obesity and atopic eczema; emotional problems were associated with an increased likelihood of epilepsy and asthma; and depression symptoms at age 8 were associated with an increased risk of asthma in early adulthood.
Our findings provide the first evidence of an association between mental health problems during childhood and increased risk of specific physical health problems, mainly asthma and obesity, during early adulthood, in a representative sample of males over time. These data suggest that behavioral and emotional problems in childhood may signal vulnerability to chronic physical health problems during early adulthood.
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