OBJECTIVES: Mental health problems (MHPs) during childhood and adolescence are negatively associated with having a paid job in young adulthood. Yet, little is known about how young adults function at work, that is, do they experience difficulties in meeting their job demands given their health state. This longitudinal study aims to examine the impact of MHPs from childhood to young adulthood on young adults' work functioning (WF).
METHODS: Data were used from 1004 participants in the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey, a Dutch prospective cohort study with 18-year follow-up. MHP trajectories, including 11, 13.5, 16, 19, 22 and 26 age points, were identified using growth mixture models. WF was assessed at age 29 with the Work Role Functioning Questionnaire 2.0 (WRFQ). Regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between MHP trajectories and WF.
RESULTS: Young adults with high-stable trajectories of internalising and externalising problems reported lower WF (mean WRFQ scores of 70.5 and 70.7, respectively) than those with low-stable trajectories (78.4 and 77.2), that is, they experience difficulties in meeting the work demands for more than one work day per full-time work week. Young adults with moderate-stable or decreasing MHP trajectories reported lower WF scores compared with those with low-stable trajectories.
CONCLUSIONS: Both persistent high and elevated levels of MHPs from childhood to young adulthood are associated with lower WF scores in young adulthood compared with low-level MHPs. Occupational healthcare professionals should support young workers with a history of MHPs to optimise their work functioning.