Regular attendance at school is recognised worldwide as a key component of engagement in schooling and an important pre-requisite for academic success. Mental disorders are among the most common and disabling conditions affecting children and adolescents. Patterns of school attendance among students with and without mental disorders were examined using data from the 2013–2014 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Much of the literature on school non-attendance, or absenteeism, has focused on three areas, namely truancy, school refusal and chronic absenteeism.
This study set out to describe patterns of attendance for students with common mental disorders, using a random sample of children and families in Australia from the population of families with children of school age living in Australia. The objectives of this study were to ascertain: (i) the number and proportion of days absent from school in students with and without mental disorders by gender and year level in school, (ii) whether or not different mental disorders are associated with different numbers of days absent from school, (iii) the number and proportion of days absent from school due to symptoms of mental disorders and (iv) the proportion of students with and without mental disorders who meet criteria for chronic absenteeism.
Mental disorders are a significant cause of student absence from school, particularly in the secondary school years. While school attendance strategies have focussed on identifying truancy and school refusal behavior, early identification and appropriate management of mental disorders may also help to improve general school attendance.
Mental disorders are among the most common and disabling conditions affecting children and adolescents. Patterns of school attendance among students with and without mental disorders were examined using data from the 2013–2014 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. One in seven school students had a mental disorder in the previous 12 months, with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety being the most common. Students with a mental disorder had lower school attendance – being absent for 11.8 days per year in Years 1–6, 23.1 days per year in Years 7–10 and 25.8 days per year in Years 11–12, on average. In comparison, students without mental disorders were absent an average of 8.3 days (Years 1–6), 10.6 days (Years 7–10) and 12.0 days (Years 11–12) per year. Among students with a mental disorder, absences due to the disorder accounted for 13.4% of all days absent from school. This increased across years in school from 8.9% in Years 1–6 to 16.6% in Years 11–12. Improving prevention, early intervention, treatment and management of mental disorders may lead to significant improvements in school attendance.
Impact of mental disorders on attendance at school
David Lawrence, Vaille Dawson, Stephen Houghton, Ben Goodsell, Michael G Sawyer
First Published March 14, 2019 Research Article
Australian Journal of Education