Two-Year-Olds From Poor Neighborhoods More Likely to Have Language Difficulties

Two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times more likely to develop difficulties with language than those from more affluent areas, according to a new Scottish study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Researchers say the findings highlight the need for policy makers to address the social factors that can hinder speech, language and communication (SLC) development.

Failing to do so means children might not fully develop the language skills necessary for emotional development, wellbeing and educational and employment opportunities.

“Growing up in a disadvantaged neighbourhood where there is poverty and reduced access to services is closely associated with problems with preschool language development,” said Professor James Boardman of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.

“These results suggest that policies designed to lessen deprivation could reduce language and communication difficulties among pre-school children.”

For the study, a research team from the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian in Scotland looked at more than 26,000 records of children who had received a routine health review between 27 and 30 months between April 2013 and April 2016.

The findings show that two-year-olds living in the most economically deprived neighborhoods were three times more likely to have SLC concerns compared to those brought up in better-off areas.

It is believed that growing up in neighborhoods with low income and unemployment — which is related to problems with education, health, access to services, crime and housing — can increase the risk of setbacks.

The researchers also discovered that being born prematurely had an impact on language issues. The findings show that each week a child spent in the womb from 23 to 36 weeks was associated with an 8.8% reduction in the likelihood of the children having an SLC concern reported at 27 months.

A pregnancy is considered full term between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days, while preterm birth is defined as delivery before 37 weeks of gestation. Socioeconomic disadvantage has also been associated with a greater risk for preterm birth.

Although the research team looked at birth data from children born in the Lothians, experts say similar results might be expected across the United Kingdom.

Source: University of Edinburgh

Coastal Living Tied to Better Mental Health Among England’s Poor

Living near the ocean is linked to better mental health among people living in England’s poorest urban communities, according to a new study published in the journal Health and Place.

The analysis, which involved survey data of nearly 26,000 respondents, is one of the most detailed investigations ever conducted into the mental health effects of living near the coast. The findings add to the growing evidence that access to blue spaces — particularly coastal environments — might improve health and wellbeing.

Approximately one in six adults in England struggles with a mental health disorder such as anxiety and/or depression, and these conditions are even more prevalent among people from poorer backgrounds. The findings suggest that access to the coast could help reduce these health inequalities in towns and cities close to the ocean.

“Our research suggests, for the first time, that people in poorer households living close to the coast experience fewer symptoms of mental health disorders,” said study leader Dr. Jo Garrett from the University of Exeter. “When it comes to mental health, this ‘protective’ zone could play a useful role in helping to level the playing field between those on high and low income.”

For the study, researchers from the University of Exeter looked at data from the Health Survey for England and compared people’s health to their proximity to the coast — from those living less than 1 kilometer (slightly more than half a mile) away to those more than 50 km (31 miles) away.

The study represents the first time the benefits of coastal living have been demonstrated at such a detailed level according to income and comes as Natural England prepares to open access to all of England’s Coast Path by 2020. With everywhere in England within 70 miles of the sea, more people could harness the mental health benefits of living near the coast thanks to improved access.

“This kind of research into blue health is vital to convincing governments to protect, create and encourage the use of coastal spaces,” said Dr. Mathew White, environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter.

“We need to help policy makers understand how to maximise the wellbeing benefits of ‘blue’ spaces in towns and cities and ensure that access is fair and inclusive for everyone, while not damaging our fragile coastal environments.”

This work is part of the BlueHealth project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program.

Source: University of Exeter