Objective: This is the first in a series of investigations of the social consequences of psychiatric disorders based on the National Comorbidity Survey. Data on the relationship between preexisting psychiatric disorders and subsequent educational attainment are presented.
Method: The National Comorbidity Survey is a nationally representative survey of 8,098 respondents in the age range 15-54 years. A subsample of 5,877 respondents completed a structured psychiatric interview and a detailed risk factor battery. Diagnoses of DSM-III-R anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance use disorders, and conduct disorder were generated, and survival analyses were used to project data on school terminations to the total U.S. population.
Results: Early-onset psychiatric disorders are present in more than 3.5 million people in the age range of the National Comorbidity Survey who did not complete high school and close to 4.3 million who did not complete college. The most important disorders are conduct disorder among men and anxiety disorders among women. The proportion of school dropouts with psychiatric disorders has increased dramatically in recent cohorts, and persons with psychiatric disorders currently account for 14.2% of high school dropouts and 4.7% of college dropouts.
Conclusions: Early-onset psychiatric disorders probably have a variety of adverse consequences. The results presented here show that truncated educational attainment is one of them. Debate concerning whether society can afford universal insurance coverage for the treatment of mental disorders needs to take these consequences into consideration.