Social and Emotional Wellness

Childhood Mental Health
Signs of mental illness in youths

Healthy Kids Learn Better

Mental Health and Academic Achievement

Epidemiological studies suggest that 12 to 30 percent of U.S. school-age children and youth experience at least moderate behavioral, social, or emotional problems [i].

Recent studies vindicate what has long been common sense among many teachers and parents: children who are given clear behavioral standards and social skills, allowing them to feel safe, valued, confident and challenged, will exhibit better school behavior and also learn more[ii].

A significant negative correlation is found between psychosocial stress and grades (r= -0.20), indicating that students experiencing high levels of psychosocial stress tend to do poorly in school[iii].

Over half of the adolescents in the United States who fail to complete their secondary education have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder[iv].

High depression scores are associated with low academic achievement, high scholastic anxiety and poor peer and teacher relationships[v].

Anxiety disorders are associated with drug use and dependence, suicidal behavior and a reduced likelihood of attending college[vi].

Teens who have made a suicide attempt in the previous twelve months showed significantly lower levels of school performance and school connectedness than non-attempters[vii].

Adolescents with a 6-month diagnosis of alcohol or drug abuse/dependence were found to have poorer school performance [viii].

Moderate substance use and/or violence/delinquency were associated with test scores a full level below scores of groups of students not involved in these behaviors. These findings take into account important factors such as gender, race-ethnicity, and poverty [ix].

Findings from the 2006 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, show that 14% of the 8th grade students that rated their general emotional and mental health as excellent reported having mostly low grades - C, D, and Fs.  By comparison 45% of the 8th graders that rated their emotional and mental health as fair or poor, reported having mostly low grades[x].

Satisfying the social and emotional needs of students prepares them to learn, increases their capacity to learn, and increases their motivation to learn.  It also improves attendance, graduation rates, and reduces suspension, expulsion, and grade retention[xi].

Oregon Public Health Division 
November 2006

[i] Juvonen, J., Le, V., Kaganoff, T., Augustine, C., & Louay, C. (2004). Focus on the Wonder Years: Challenges Facing the American Middle School.Rand Education. , pp 47-48.  (available at:

[ii] Shriver, T.P.& Weissberg, R.P.(2005) No Emotion Left Behind.The New York Times.August 16, 2005, Tuesday; Editorial Desk Late Edition - Final, Section A, Page 15, Column 1.

[iii] Alatorre Alva, S. & de Los Reyes, R. (1999). Psychosocial stress, internalized symptoms, and the academic achievement of Hispanic Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research. 14(3): July:343-358. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[iv] Stoep, A.V., Weiss, N.S., Kuo, E.S., Cheney, D. & Cohen, P. (2003). What proportion of failure to complete secondary school in the US population is attributable to adolescent psychiatric disorder? Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research. 30(1):119-24. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[v] Fosterling, F. & Binser, M.J. (2002). Depression, school performance and the veridicality of perceived grades and causal attributions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 28(10):1441-1449. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

Marmorstein, N.R. & Iacono W.G. (2001). An investigation of female adolescent twins with both major depression and conduct disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 40(3):299-306. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

Masi et al. (2001). Depressive symptoms and academic self-image in adolescence. Psychopathology. 34:57-61. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[vi] Woodward L.J. & Fergusson, D.M. (2001). Life course outcomes of young people with anxiety disorders in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 40(9):1086-1093 (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[vii] Slap G., Goodman, E. & Huang, B. (2001)Adoption as a risk factor for attempted suicide during adolescence. Pediatrics. 108(2):E30. (As found in Columbia TeenscreenMental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[viii] Reinherz et al. (1993). Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a community population of older adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 32(2):369-377. (As found in Columbia Teenscreen Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet)

[ix] Washington Kids Count Human Services Policy Center. (2002) The Impact of Substance Use and Violence/Delinquency on Academic Achievement For Groups of Middle and High School Students in Washington. University of Washington, May.

[x] Oregon Adolescent Health Section analysis of 2006 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey data.  Prepared November 132006.

[xi] Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2003). Safe and Sound: An Educational

Leader’s Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs. Chicago, IL.