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Study Suggests People with Happy Childhoods Can Still Develop Mental Illness

A happy childhood doesn’t necessarily spare you from mental health troubles — that’s according to a new study from the University of South Australia that found even people who report a joyous upbringing can go on to develop a mental illness.

“This research shows that mental health conditions are not solely determined by early life events, and that a child who is raised in a happy home could still grow up to have a mental health disorder,” said Bianca Kahl, a Ph.D. candidate who worked on the research.

The study done in partnership with the University of Canberra looked at different factors that contribute to the development of certain mental health conditions in adulthood. This included documenting early childhood experiences and their relationship to developmental pathways.

The study stated that in Australia, 50% of people will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. In the U.S, this figure stands at 46% while 1 in 5 have lived with a mental health condition over the past year.

Researchers said the study suggested that the most important factor in preventing mental illness is the ability to adapt to unexpected and/or negative experiences in one’s life.

Kahl explained, “We suspect that it’s our expectations about our environments and our ability to adapt to scenarios when our expectations are not being met, that may be influencing our experiences of distress.”

The findings of this study are in line with what some researchers have said about developing PTSD. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event goes on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, with some genetic or situational factors increasing the risk. Mental illness is complicated and doesn’t have a single cause.

According to Kahl, the findings of the research will now be tested in a new study to see if our ability to adapt is indeed associated with mental health outcomes.

“If, as children, we learn how to adapt to change, and we learn how to cope when things do not go our way, we may be in a better position to respond to stress and other risk factors for poor mental health.”

Photo by Sane Sodbayar on Unsplash

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