The impact of the social environment on childrens mental health in a prosperous city: an analysis with data from the city of MunichReportar como inadecuado

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BMC Public Health

, 10:199

First Online: 21 April 2010Received: 05 November 2009Accepted: 21 April 2010DOI: 10.1186-1471-2458-10-199

Cite this article as: Perna, L., Bolte, G., Mayrhofer, H. et al. BMC Public Health 2010 10: 199. doi:10.1186-1471-2458-10-199


BackgroundChildren with a low socioeconomic position are more affected by mental difficulties as compared to children with a higher socioeconomic position. This paper explores whether this socioeconomic pattern persists in the prosperous German city of Munich which features high quality of life and coverage of children mental health specialists that lies well above the national average and is among the highest in Europe.

Methods1,265 parents of preschool children participated in a cross-sectional health survey. They were given a self-administered questionnaire including socioeconomic variables and the -Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire SDQ-, a well-established method to identify mental difficulties among children and adolescents. Prevalence estimates for the -SDQ-Total Difficulties Score- were calculated, with a special focus on differences by parental resp. household socioeconomic position. The association between parental education, household income, single parenthood, nationality, and parental working status on one hand, and their children-s mental health on the other, was explored using multivariable logistic regression models. The coverage of mental health specialists per 100,000 children aged 14 or younger in the city of Munich was also calculated.

ResultsIn Munich, the distribution of mental health difficulties among children follows the same socioeconomic pattern as described previously at the national level, but the overall prevalence is about 30% lower. Comparing different indicators of socioeconomic position, low parental education and household income are the strongest independent variables associated with mental difficulties among children OR = 2.7; CI = 1.6 - 4.4 and OR = 2.8; CI = 1.4 - 5.6, respectively.

ConclusionsSocioeconomic differences in the prevalence of childhood mental difficulties are very stable. Even in a city such as Munich, which is characterized by high quality of life, high availability of mental health specialists, and low overall prevalence of these mental difficulties, they are about as pronounced as in Germany as a whole. It can be concluded that the effect of several characteristics of socioeconomic position -overrules- the effect of a health promoting regional environment.

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Autor: Laura Perna - Gabriele Bolte - Heidi Mayrhofer - Gabriele Spies - Andreas Mielck


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