This study examined the association between early parental death and children’s subsequent mental health, years of schooling, and labour-market outcomes (ie, employment and earnings) in adulthood.
We used nationwide register-based data for Finnish citizens born between 1971 and 1986 (n=962 350). Logistic and linear regression models were used to examine the association of early parental death before the age of 21 years with subsequent mental health and labour-market outcomes in adulthood at ages 26–30. The estimated models accounted for an extensive set of demographic and parental characteristics based on longitudinal register data.
Early-life parental death was found to be consistently associated with a higher risk of hospitalisation due to mental health disorders, higher use of mental health-related medications, and absence from work due to illness in adulthood. The associations were negative regardless of the gender of the child or parent, but the estimated odds ratios were usually quantitatively larger for males than females. When examining the type of outcome, we observed the largest quantitative effects were observed using substance-use disorders and intentional self-harm as outcomes. Moreover, we documented considerable reductions in years of schooling, employment, and earnings in adulthood.
Parental death before the age of 21 was significantly associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with a mental disorder and lower level of economic well-being measured by labour-market success in adulthood.