A recent study shows that one in five children in the UK have a higher risk of developing adolescent mental health disorders or physical illness because of persistent poverty. This alarming scenario comes from a new paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
In 2016-17, about 4.1 million children, or 30%, in the UK were poor, up from 27% five years back. The number is projected to rise still more over the next five years, to 37%. Over 62% of children had never been poor. Early and late childhood poverty was noted in about 13% and 5% of children respectively.
The present study aimed at discovering whether exposure to poverty at different times affects child health in different ways, based on three health indicators. The findings were adjusted for maternal education and ethnic origin, but still showed that overall, poverty was associated with worse physical and mental health in adolescence. Specifically, persistent poverty was correlated with a three-fold risk of mental illness, 1.5 times higher obesity risk, and a two-fold rise in long-standing illness, compared with the never-poor.
Poverty in early childhood was more closely linked to social and emotional problems manifesting as disturbed behavior, as well as with long-standing illness at the age of 14 years. However, poverty in late childhood was associated with a higher risk of obesity in the later adolescent years. Poverty was defined here as a household income below 60% of the average.
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