The mental health challenges facing young people who took part in the study included, but were not limited to anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and personality disorders.

The statistics from the research have been taken from anonymised hospital admission and GP records which tracked 190,000 children living in Wales from birth up to age 15. It recorded mental health symptoms, diagnoses and treatments, and analysed mental health issues and developmental disorders. The study looked at 14 years’ worth of data, collected between 1998 and 2012 and found links between household members who were mentally ill and other conditions in children such as personality or eating disorders.

There was also a 42% increase in developmental disorders, including learning disabilities or attention-deficit disorders

Additionally, the study found that alongside mental health, children who experienced victimisation such as maltreatment or assault were 90% more likely to suffer childhood mental health issues and were 65% more likely to have developmental disorders.

Adverse childhood experiences and child mental health

Dr Emily Lowthian, who conducted the research at Cardiff University’s Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement, said: “Our findings demonstrate that even before the pandemic hit, mental ill-health and a wide array of associated symptoms were common experiences for many children and young people.”

Co-author Dr Rebecca Anthony has determined that:

“The links between victimisation and childhood mental health are perhaps more understandable given the trauma associated with these experiences. And, while we did not find any evidence to suggest that experiences are worse in deprived settings, more research in this area is needed.”

The study was a collaboration between researchers at DECIPHer, Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, The Wolfson’s Centre for Young People’s Mental Health at Cardiff University, Swansea University Medical School and Bangor University, with the full findings of the report published in BMC Medicine.