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Persistent school absenteeism could be a sign of a psychiatric disorder. A new study of more than 17,000 students has found that frequently missing school is related to a higher prevalence of mental health problems in adolescence. Additionally, mental health problems in one school year predict higher absences in the subsequent school year.
The study was coordinated by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Florida, Boston University, the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, the Oregon Social Learning Center, and Johns Hopkins University.
“We’ve long known that students who are frequently absent from school are more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders, but les clear is the reason why,” reported Jeffrey Wood, associate professor educational psychology and psychiatry at UCLA and leader of the study. “These two aspects of youths’ adjustment may at times exacerbate one another, leading over the course of time to more of each.”
Students in the study were between 1st and 12th grades. They interviewed students and parents annually or biennially. Records were analyzed from school attendance reports. Questionnaires were distributed to students, parents and school administrators. They found that students absent more than 20 days were more likely to have higher levels of depression and anxiety.
“The findings can help inform the development of programs to reduce school absenteeism,” according to Wood. “School personnel in middle schools and high schools could benefit from knowing that mental health issues and school absenteeism each influence the other over time. Helping students address mental health issues may int urn help prevent the emergence of chronic absenteeism. At the same time, working to help students who are developing a pattern of chronic absenteeism come to school more consistently may help prevent psychiatric problems.”
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Child Development
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