Mental health has a significant link with boys’ educational attainment

We used the longitudinal survey data from Understanding Society between 2009 and 2017. We looked at the effect of wellbeing on teens’ A-level (equivalent) attainment at 18 years of age. In total, 681 boys and 785 girls are measured on their wellbeing and mental health levels from the age of 10 onwards to 17 years.

  • It’s not clear how, or if, wellbeing and mental health impact educational attainment. Girls have poorer mental health and wellbeing than boys between 10 and 17, but generally outperform boys in A-level qualification attainment.
  • The strongest association between mental health and educational outcome is for mental health measured at 14-15 years. Overall, better mental health in different stages of adolescence is generally associated with better educational outcomes for boys and girls.
  • Mental health is more strongly associated with educational outcomes for boys than for girls. For example, a boy with 10% higher mental health score at age 14-15 (that is 3.5 points higher scores on a 35 point scale) increases his likelihood of getting A-levels via the academic route by the time he is 18 by 15% and a girl by 7%. Both these associations are statistically significant.
  • The link between mental health and educational attainment is significant only for boys, even when controlling for additional factors, such as family resources or adolescent behaviours. For girls, reading two to four books a week; not hanging around the house or town centre; and household income are all positively associated with attainment of A-levels by age 18.
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