Research Fellow, ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, King’s College London
In the UK, much of what we know about the extent, nature, and development of mental health problems among young people is based on data from nationally representative samples. As a result, we know little about the mental health of young people from diverse backgrounds and densely populated urban areas. Yet, among adults, there are stark and entrenched inequalities in risks and rates of mental illness by social group and between urban and rural areas.
REACH – an accelerated cohort study of adolescent mental health in inner-city London – was established to investigate the developmental origins of inequalities in mental health in young people from diverse backgrounds in urban areas. Over 4000 young people, recruited from local secondary schools, are taking part. The cohorts are socially and ethnically diverse (e.g., >80%minority ethnic groups, 25% from low-income households) and highly representative. Those taking part have provided detailed information, at baseline (age 11-14 years) and 1 and 2 years later, on their mental health and putative risk and protective factors. Around 1800 have continued to provide information during the covid-19 pandemic.
This talk will introduce REACH – including aims, rationale, study design, data collected – and present evidence on the extent and nature of social inequalities in mental health before and during the covid-19 pandemic. It will also discuss the relevance of REACH data to the current social, health, and education policy landscape in the UK and introduce our approach to working in partnership with young people and schools to deliver our research and to develop, together, recommendations for policy makers.