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Adults who spent time in care as children more likely to die prematurely

Adults who spent time in care a more likely to die prematurely and from unnatural causes, according to research by the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care.

In fact, adults who spent time during their childhood in care were 70 per cent more likely to die prematurely than those who did not.

One of the authors Professor Amanda Sacker said: “The figures are really quite shocking and indicate that while the majority of us are living longer, healthier lives, this is far from the case for those who spent time as children in care. Rather, the inequalities have increased”.

The research, carried out by Professor Sacker and her colleagues, looked at more than 350,000 people in the ONS Longitudinal Study, which is based on the Census. They looked into whether they had been in care at any point between 1971 and 2001 and then tracked to see whether they had died 42 years later and, if so, how.

Those who had been in care were considerably more likely to have died in that timescale and many of the deaths were related to mental health problems. The majority of deaths were down to unnatural causes such as self-harm, accidents or related to mental illness.

While there was only a 40% increased risk of premature death for those in care compared with those living with parents in 1971, the risk for those in care had grown to 360% compared to those living with parents in 2001. Although researchers had predicted that men’s risk of early death might be greater than women’s, this was not in fact the case.

Professor Sacker said: “These are deeply worrying findings. Children in care are among the most vulnerable in our society and our research indicates that we are failing them. We must do more to understand why this is happening - a strong focus on mental health. Our research also indicates that the existing guidelines for the handover from child to adult health services should be expanded to include support well beyond young adulthood.”

Association of childhood out-of-home care status with all-cause mortality up to 42-years later: Office of National Statistics Longitudinal Study is research published in BMC Public Health by Emily Murray, Rebecca Lacey, Barbara Maughan and Amanda Sacker

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