A life course perspective on mental health problems, employment, and work outcomes

Karin Veldman*, Sijmen A Reijneveld, Frank C Verhulst, Josue Almansa Ortiz, Ute Bültmann

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives Little is known about how employment and work outcomes among young adults are influenced by their life-course history of mental health problems. Therefore, the aims of this study were to (i) identify trajectories of mental health problems from childhood to young adulthood and (ii) investigate the association between these trajectories and employment and work outcomes among young adults.

Methods Data were used from 360 participants of the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS), a Dutch prospective cohort study, with 12-year follow-up. Trajectories of externalizing and internalizing problems were identified with latent class growth models. Employment conditions and work outcomes (ie, psychosocial work characteristics) were measured at age 22. We assessed the association between mental health trajectories and employment conditions and work outcomes.

Results Four trajectories of mental health problems were identified: high-stable, decreasing, moderate-stable and low-stable. Young adults with high-stable trajectories of externalizing problems worked over six hours more [B=6.71, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.82-10.6] and had a higher income [odds ratio (OR) 0.33, 95% CI 0.15-0.71], than young adults with low-stable trajectories. Young adults with high-stable trajectories of internalizing problems worked six hours less per week (B=-6.07, 95% CI-10.1-2.05) and reported lower income (OR 3.44,95% CI 1.53-7.74) and poorer psychosocial work characteristics, compared to young adults with low-stable trajectories.

Conclusions Among young adults who had a paid job at the age of 22 (and were not a student or unemployed), those with a history of internalizing problems are less likely to transition successfully into the labor market, compared to other young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-325
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health
Issue number4
Early online date1-Jun-2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2017


  • depression
  • employment condition
  • externalizing problem
  • internalizing problem
  • life course epidemiology
  • longitudinal study
  • mood disorder
  • psychosocial work characteristic
  • young adult

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