Early Mental Health Issues May Lead to Poor Physical Health Later

Depressed woman sitting on a chair in dark room at home. Lonly , sad, emotion concept.
Investigating the association between early-life mental health trajectories with biomarkers in midlife and premature mortality.

Evidence from a 1958 British Birth Cohort shows a connection between mental health issues in early life and poor physical health and premature mortality later in life, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers queried 9377 respondents age 44 to 45 years old who participated in the British National Child Development Study. Biomarkers collected include fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, glycated hemoglobin, high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, forced expiratory volume, blood pressure, and waist-to-hip ratio. National Health Service digital notifications, information gathered during “fieldwork,” and the address database held at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies database helped yield mortality information. The causes of death that researchers analyzed included unintentional injuries (eg, car crashes), deaths related to alcohol and drugs, and deaths related to the circulatory system (eg, heart attacks).

The researchers observed 82 unintentional injuries, 82 drug- and alcohol-related deaths, and 154 circulatory system–related deaths. Overall the researchers found differences among gender and in the varying levels of mental health issues (low, moderate, high).

Limitations include the fact that the analysis applies only to people born in Britain in or near 1958. There is a potential for bias due to unmeasured confounding.

“As a target of interventions, early life mental health has the potential to mitigate the effect that adverse socioeconomic circumstances in childhood, adverse childhood experiences, and early-life low cognitive ability have in adulthood as it can be plausibly assumed to lie on the pathway that links these with adult health, mortality, and social and economic outcomes,” the researchers wrote.


Ploubidis GB, Batty GD, Patalay P, Bann D, Goodman A. Association of early-life mental health with biomarkers in midlife and premature mortality: Evidence from the 1958 British birth cohort [published online September 30, 2020]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2893