Background. Mental disorders often begin during the formative years of education. They may
disrupt education and lead to social underachievement.
Methods. We examined the impact of mental disorders treated in hospital (ages 16–29) on
educational attainment up to 31 years in the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort (N = 10581).
People discharged due to mental illness were grouped by DSM-III-R diagnoses (of schizophrenia,
other psychoses and non-psychotic disorders) and were compared with those having no such
hospital treatment. Associations between diagnoses and educational outcome (completion of basic
level, upper secondary or tertiary education) were analysed stratified by age at onset (early onset
< 22 years v. later), and adjusted for confounding by perinatal risk, early motor development,
maternal education, family structure, parental social class, and school achievement using prospective
data from earlier assessments and logistic regression analysis.
Results. Twelve per cent of the comparison group completed basic level education, 62% upper
secondary, and 26% tertiary education. People with early onset disorder tended to stagnate in the
basic level. Early onset schizophrenia and all non-psychotic cases had 3- to 6-fold adjusted odds for
this outcome. Many with early onset schizophrenia completed secondary education, but none
completed the tertiary level. Hospitalization for non-psychotic disorder increased the risk of
underachievement in tertiary education for those with early onset.
Conclusions. Mental disorder treated in hospital truncates education. Failure to complete higher
education may contribute to the ‘social exclusion’ of the mentally ill through reduced opportunities
in later occupational life and failure to accumulate social capital.