Simple Ring SmallThis paper from RAND uses unique data from the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) following groups of siblings and their parents for up to 40 years prospectively collecting information on education, income, work, and marriage. The long-term economic damages of childhood psychological problems are large-a lifetime cost in lost family income of approximately $300,000, and total lifetime economic cost for all those affected of 2.1 trillion dollars.  This is important information for community-based organizations trying to make the case for early investment in children’s behavioral health services. Key study findings include the following:

  • Childhood psychological conditions have large effects on the ability of affected children to work and earn as adults and to get married and smaller effects on their ability to achieve educationally.
  • Controlling for physical childhood diseases shows that these effects are not the result of the  coexistence of psychological and physical diseases, and controlling for within-sibling differences  shows that the effects are not the result of unobserved common family differences.
  • The long-term economic damages of such effects are very large — a reduction in family income of  about $10,400, amounting to a loss that will be sustained, on average, through all adult years.
  • Using a 3-percent real discount rate, this translates into a lifetime cost in lost family income for the individuals affected of about $300,000.
  • If one in 20 adult Americans experienced these psychological problems during their childhood  years (about the current prevalence), total lifetime economic damages for all those affected would be $2.1 trillion.
  • This estimate likely understates the costs, because it ignores the significant noneconomic costs associated with these psychological disorders.


Read the full report here.    This report is also in the CBHI Knowledge Base.

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