CHILDREN who suffer from mental health issues work less, earn less and are less likely to get and stay married in later life.
Research based on studies conducted in the US and Britain spanning five decades and tens of thousands of participants has shown mental problems follow sufferers throughout their life, affecting their relationships and lowering their earning capacity by almost 30pc in adulthood.
Professor James P Smith will present the findings on the effects of childhood physical and mental health on adult health and socio-economic status as part of the annual Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI) Geary lecture taking place today.
The Geary lecture is organised each year by the ESRI and honours Dr R C Geary, the first director of the institute. Dr Geary is regarded as the most eminent Irish statistician of the 20th Century.
More needs to be done to tackle this "very serious consequence" of childhood mental health problems, said Prof Smith. He said although the research was based abroad, the results still applied to Ireland.
"The reason it is so serious is because, unlike physical problems, which usually appear when you get a little older, mental health issues are difficult to get rid of and they make life much, much harder for people," he said.
"Mental health issues in childhood make it much harder to participate in the labour force. It also makes it harder to get married in the first place, and if you do get married you tend to marry a spouse who has a lower earning capacity themselves.
"Your wages are lower and your lifetime income is lower."
Prof Smith said much more communication was needed around the issue of mental health problems in children.
"In my view, we have tended to place a lot more emphasis on physical health and we tended to not pay as much attention to mental health issues" he said.
Adding that more work was needed to identify factors making children more at risk for these problems.
"We don't have a golden cure but we have, both through medicine and therapy, things that can make life a lot better."