We review epidemiological evidence indicating that most people will develop a diagnosable mental disorder, suggesting that only a minority experience enduring mental health. This minority has received little empirical study, leaving the prevalence and predictors of enduring mental health unknown. We turn to the population-representative Dunedin cohort, followed from birth to midlife, to compare people never-diagnosed with mental disorder (N = 171; 17% prevalence) to those diagnosed at 1-2 study waves, the cohort mode (N = 409). Surprisingly, compared to this modal group, never-diagnosed Study members were not born into unusually well-to-do families, nor did their enduring mental health follow markedly sound physical health, or unusually high intelligence. Instead, they tended to have an advantageous temperament/personality style, and negligible family history of mental disorder. As adults, they report superior educational and occupational attainment, greater life satisfaction, and higher-quality relationships. Our findings draw attention to "enduring mental health" as a revealing psychological phenotype and suggest it deserves further study.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment. This research received support from the U. S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) Grants AG032282, AG048895, AG049789, United Kingdom Medical Research Council Grant MR/K00381X, and Economic and Social Research Council Grant ES/M010309/1. Additional support was provided by the Jacobs Foundation and the Avielle Foundation. Jonathan D. Schaefer and Daniel W. Belsky were supported by NIA Grants T32-AG000139, and P30-AG028716. Jonathan D. Schaefer was also supported by NICHD grant T32HD007376.
© 2016 American Psychological Association.
- Mental health
- Psychiatric disorder