Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Impact of childhood and adulthood psychological health on labour force participation and exit in later life

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Lain



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Background. Adulthood psychological health predicts labour force activity but few studies have examined childhood psychological health. We hypothesized that childhood psychological ill-health would be associated with labour force exit at 55 years. Method. Data were from the 55-year follow-up of the National Child Development Study (n = 9137). Labour force participation and exit (unemployment, retirement, permanent sickness, homemaking/other) were self-reported at 55 years. Internalizing and externalizing problems in childhood (7, 11 and 16 years) and malaise in adulthood (23, 33, 42, 50 years) were assessed. Education, social class, periods of unemployment, partnership separations, number of children, and homemaking activity were measured throughout adulthood. Results. Childhood internalizing and externalizing problems were associated with unemployment, permanent sickness and homemaking/other at 55 years, after adjustment for adulthood psychological health and education: one or two reports of internalizing was associated with increased risk for unemployment [relative risk (RR) 1.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.12–2.25; RR 2.37, 95% CI 1.48–3.79] and permanent sickness (RR 1.32, 95% CI 1.00–1.74; RR, 1.48, 95% CI 1.00–2.17); three reports of externalizing was associated with increased risk for unemployment (RR 2.26, 95% CI 1.01–5.04), permanent sickness (RR 2.63, 95% CI 1.46–4.73) and homemaking/other (RR 1.95, 95% CI 1.00–3.78). Conclusions. Psychological ill-health across the lifecourse, including during childhood, reduces the likelihood of working in older age. Support for those with mental health problems at different life stages and for those with limited connections to the labour market, including homemakers, is an essential dimension of attempts to extend working lives

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clark C, Smuk M, Lain D, Stansfeld SA, Carr E, Head J, Vickerstaff S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychological Medicine

Year: 2017

Volume: 47

Issue: 9

Pages: 1597-1608

Print publication date: 03/07/2017

Online publication date: 15/02/2017

Acceptance date: 28/12/2016

Date deposited: 19/09/2017

ISSN (print): 0033-2917

ISSN (electronic): 1469-8978

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0033291717000010


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
funded by the Uncertain Futures: Managing Late Career Transitions and Extended Working Life project by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/L002949/1)
joint funding from the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK’s Medical Research Council, under the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Cross-Council Programme initiative (ES/L002892/1).