A new study has found that poor mental health of children and teenagers has a large impact on the length of time they will stay in school.
Lead researcher from Queen's University Steven Lehrer said that a large number of school-based programs have been introduced to prevent childhood obesity through lifestyle changes, but suggests the net should be cast more widely.
"It's important for policymakers to target health conditions that are not the easiest to identify - like inattention - but may have larger impacts on one's future," Lehrer added.
The findings provide strong evidence that inattentive symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in childhood and depression in adolescents are linked to the number of years of completed schooling, Lehrer said, and this points to potentially large benefits from childhood and adolescent health interventions that have not yet been identified.
"We focus on the link between health and education because unraveling the mechanisms linking the two will have important implications for policy design."
In their study, Lehrer along with Jason Fletcher of Yale University, introduces a new research design they call a "genetic lottery" identification strategy, based on the fact that at conception there are differences in genetic inheritance among siblings.
"While our paper uses this research design to estimate the relationship between health and education outcomes, we believe this identification has much wider applicability in a number of critical areas in both social science and health services research," Lehrer added.
The study appears in the journal, Forum for Health Economics and Policy.