Parental income and mental disorders in children and adolescents: prospective register-based study

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Kinge, Jonas Minet, Simon Øverland, Martin Flatø, Joseph Dieleman, Ole Røgeberg, Maria Christine Magnus, Miriam Evensen, Martin Tesli, Anders Skrondal, Camilla Stoltenberg, Stein Emil Vollset, Siri Håberg, Fartein Ask Torvik




International Journal of Epidemiology

Vol 50(5), 1615-1627


Background Children with low-income parents have a higher risk of mental disorders, although it is unclear whether other parental characteristics or genetic confounding explain these associations and whether it is true for all mental disorders. Methods In this registry-based study of all children in Norway (n = 1 354 393) aged 5–17 years from 2008 to 2016, we examined whether parental income was associated with childhood diagnoses of mental disorders identified through national registries from primary healthcare, hospitalizations and specialist outpatient services. Results There were substantial differences in mental disorders by parental income, except for eating disorders in girls. In the bottom 1% of parental income, 16.9% [95% confidence interval (CI): 15.6, 18.3] of boys had a mental disorder compared with 4.1% (95% CI: 3.3, 4.8) in the top 1%. Among girls, there were 14.2% (95% CI: 12.9, 15.5) in the lowest, compared with 3.2% (95% CI: 2.5, 3.9) in the highest parental-income percentile. Differences were mainly attributable to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in boys and anxiety and depression in girls. There were more mental disorders in children whose parents had mental disorders or low education, or lived in separate households. Still, parental income remained associated with children’s mental disorders after accounting for parents’ mental disorders and other factors, and associations were also present among adopted children. Conclusions Mental disorders were 3- to 4-fold more prevalent in children with parents in the lowest compared with the highest income percentiles. Parents’ own mental disorders, other socio-demographic factors and genetic confounding did not fully explain these associations.


Mental disorders, income, inequality, childhood, adolescence