Long-term effects of mental disorders on educational attainment in the National Comorbidity Survey ten-year follow-up

Ramin Mojtabai, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Irving Hwang, William W. Eaton, Nancy Sampson, Ronald C. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Purpose: The study sought to examine the association of mental disorders with educational attainment in a community sample. Methods: Data were from 5001 respondents aged 15–54 in the 1990–1992 National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), re-interviewed in the 2001–2003 NCS follow-up (NCS-2). Discrete-time survival analysis was used to examine the association of disorders present at baseline (NCS) or having first onset after the baseline (assessed in NCS-2) with educational outcomes among 3954 eligible respondents. Mental disorders were categorized into internalizing fear disorders (simple phobia, social phobia, panic disorder with/without agoraphobia and agoraphobia without panic disorder), internalizing anxiety-misery disorders (major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder), externalizing disorders (alcohol and drug use disorders, conduct disorder) and bipolar disorder. Analyses were conducted separately in students and non-students at baseline. Results: Among students, baseline bipolar and externalizing disorders, as well as fear, anxiety-misery and externalizing disorders with onset after baseline were associated with lower odds of high school graduation; baseline anxiety-misery disorders with lower odds of going to college; and baseline externalizing disorders and bipolar disorder with onset after baseline with lower odds of college graduation. Among non-students, baseline fear disorders were associated with lower odds of high school graduation and bipolar disorder with lower odds of going to college. Assuming that the regression coefficients represent causal effects, mental disorders accounted for 5.8–11.0 % of high school and 3.2–11.4 % of college non-completion. Conclusions: Expanding access to mental health services for youth might have a net positive societal value by helping to prevent some of these adverse educational outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1577-1591
Number of pages15
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2015


  • Burden of mental illness
  • Education
  • Epidemiology
  • Mental illness
  • Social consequences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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