Test at three can tell if a child will grow up to be obese, a criminal or have mental problems
A simple test at the age of three can determine whether children will grow up to be a burden on society, needing excessive welfare, spending time in prison or becoming obese, a 35-year study has shown.
Scientists at King's College London followed more than 1,000 children from before school until they were 38, to find out if it was possible to predict who would go on to lead troubled lives.
All were given a 45-minute test aged three to gauge intelligence, language and motor skills, and were assessed for their levels of tolerance, restlessness, impulsiveness and social disadvantage.
After 35 years, the researchers found one-fifth of the group was responsible for 81pc of the group's overall criminal convictions, three-quarters of its drug prescriptions, two-thirds of welfare benefit payments and more than half of nights in hospital.
But crucially, they discovered that the outcomes could have been predicted decades earlier, simply by looking at which children attained the lowest test scores aged three.
The team believes that if all children could be tested, it would be possible to work out which were at greatest risk, so that interventions could be made to prevent them slipping into a life where they were a burden on the state.
"About 20pc of the population is using the lion's share of a wide array of public services," said Prof Terrie Moffitt, of King's College and Duke University in North Carolina.
"The same people use most of the NHS, the criminal courts, insurance claims for disabling injury, pharmaceutical prescriptions and special welfare benefits.
"We also... found that 20pc begin their lives with mild problems with brain function and brain health when they were very small children. Looking at health examinations really changed the whole picture."
As well as increased criminality and NHS use, the most costly participants of the study also carried 40pc of the obese weight.
The study was published in the journal 'Nature Human Behaviour'. (© Daily Telegraph, London)