Associations of childhood social conditions and subsequent adulthood welfare -- the longitudinal 1987 Finnish Birth Cohort register-based study

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Oulu University Hospital, auditorium 6, Zoom link:

Topic of the dissertation

Associations of childhood social conditions and subsequent adulthood welfare -- the longitudinal 1987 Finnish Birth Cohort register-based study

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Marko Merikukka

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, PEDEGO Research Unit

Subject of study

Public health


Docent Tomi Oinas, University of Jyväskylä


Professor Marjo Renko, University of Eastern Finland / University of Oulu

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Associations of childhood social conditions and subsequent adulthood welfare

The marginalisation of youths, youth unemployment, and exacerbated mental disorders are problematic in terms of the structures of the welfare state: besides being a tragedy on a personal and human level, marginalisation is also a major financial burden on the state, due to the involvement of the different remedial, preventative, and supportive social and health care services needed, as well as due to lost tax income.

In order to protect children and adolescents from becoming marginalised, information is needed on the well-being of young adults and the role the social factors related to their childhood and adolescence have in it. This information makes it possible to use the services and benefits system to influence the social factors, as well as direct tax revenues at proactive health care services. It is cheaper to direct tax revenues at proactive and timely services than it is to take remedial action.

The goal of the study, therefore, is to identify the risk factors associated with well-being and to substantiate the correlation between them and the response to well-being. It is in the interests of both the youths and the state to support the development of the well-being of children and adolescents, the future taxpayers, thereby harnessing their individual potential to benefit the structures of the welfare state.

In this thesis, the focus is on mental health and early school leaving of children born in Finland 1987. The children in question have been followed over time based on longitudinal, register-based 1987 Finnish Birth Cohort data (N = 59,476). In this study, social factors that are linked to mental disorders and early dropping out of school are examined from the standpoint of Allardt’s sociological theory of welfare, life course approach and social epidemiology.

Based on earlier literature, parental mental disorders are associated to with offsprings’ mental disorders. According to our study, parental mental disorders are associated even more closely with disability pension due to mental disorders. Surprisingly, a lower level of education in fathers (basic-level qualification and upper secondary-level), seemed to be a preventive factor of disability pension due to mental disorder compared to fathers with the highest level of education among children who had received mental health care from 1987–2012. Cohort members’ mental disorders and social adversities explained 35% and 28%, respectively, of association between parental mental disorders and later disability pension due to depressive and anxiety disorders.

Our study also showed that apart from parental mental disorders, some parental somatic disorders and comorbidity of them are associated with offspring’s mental disorders. In addition, our study indicated that social participation, especially a peaceful environment in school surroundings (not only discipline and control but also positive interaction between students and teachers) is important in the continuum of education path after comprehensive school.

Policy makers of social affairs and health at the municipal and state level need information on welfare’s social factors to implement knowledge-based management and develop service and benefit systems corresponding to the need of care. In addition, the knowledge of parental psychiatric and somatic illnesses’ burden to offsprings’ psychiatric development should be taken into account in parental care systems. A longer educational path in discourse of educational policy should take on an internal comprehensive school point of view.
Last updated: 1.3.2023