This pilot investigates the degree to which early-life mental health lays the foundation for lifelong physical health in the population. Three demographic trends are colliding to challenge the health and wellbeing of the population: The post-retirement portion of the population is swelling, the human lifespan is lengthening, and the birth rate is dropping. The result is that the balance of young-to-old is shifting, leaving fewer young workers to drive the economy and pay taxes to support more aging citizens. These three trends mean more stress for the young and less support for the old, bringing two opportunities for health policy. First, an opportunity to prevent disability among young people. Young people tend to be physically healthy, but they are disabled by behavioral problems, emotional problems, substance abuse, and cognitive impairments. Second, an opportunity to prevent ill health among older people, to reduce the future burden of age-related disability from physical and neurodegenerative diseases. Investigators pose the prevention hypothesis that better mental-health treatment for young people today could have knock-on effects of improving their physical and cognitive health when they reach old age in the future (Moffitt & Caspi, 2019). This pilot will quantify the degree to which such prevention efforts could benefit population healthspan and lifespan using a study population drawn from the New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), a collection of de-identified administrative data sources that are linked at the individual level.
Duke Principal Investigator(s)
Primary Funding Agency