(HealthDay News) – An adverse macroeconomic environment during infancy has long-term consequences and is associated with increased likelihood of substance abuse and delinquent behavior during adolescence, according to a study published online Dec. 31 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Seethalakshmi Ramanathan, MBBS, DPM, from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and colleagues used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 to examine the influence of nationwide adverse economic environment during infancy on the rates of subsequent adolescent substance use and delinquent behaviors. Participants included 8,984 adolescents born from 1980–1984.

The researchers found that exposure at the age of 1 year to a 1% deviation from the mean regional unemployment rates correlated with a significantly increased likelihood of engaging in marijuana use (odds ratio [OR], 1.09), smoking (OR, 1.07), alcohol use (OR, 1.06), arrest (OR, 1.17), affiliation with a gang (OR, 1.09; 95% confidence interval, 1–1.19), and both petty and major theft (ORs, 1.06 and 1.11, respectively). There was no significant correlation observed for hard drug use, property destruction, and assaultive behavior.

“This finding suggests that unfavorable economic conditions during infancy may create circumstances that can affect the psychological development of the infant and lead to the development of behavioral problems in adolescence,” the authors write. “We hope that the study inspires mental health professionals to look for potential causes and explore interventions that can mitigate some of these long-term consequences.”

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