Back to search

FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

Early Life SocioEconomic status, mental health, and educational performance: an evaluation of sensitivity to the environment (ELiSE)

Alternative title: Sosial ulikhet blant barn, psykisk helse og skoleløp: en undersøkelse av mottagelighet for miljøet (ELiSE)

Awarded: NOK 9.6 mill.

Project Manager:

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2023 - 2028


Social inequality plays out in the neighborhood in which the child lives. Poverty in both families and neighborhoods is linked to poor mental health and school difficulties in children. Together, these factors help to determine a child's future health and completion of education in adulthood. We have too little understanding of how and why early low socioeconomic status is linked to mental health and school difficulties. This may be because the upbringing environment in families is mixed with genetic risk in the same families. We propose an innovative framework that combines temporal, geographical, social, genetic, and individual level of understanding of the link between social inequality and mental health. By studying people with a similar genetic makeup, the researchers in the ELiSE project can uncover how time periods, places, schools, and families affect connections. This will give them the opportunity to simultaneously assess hypotheses about direct and indirect pathways into poor mental health and school difficulties. ELISE will provide completely new ways of studying: How the risk of mental health problems and school difficulties is transferred from parents to children. Why early mental health problems increase the risk of later school difficulties. How genes and environment interact to provide protective contexts. What characterizes places where children have the best psychological development. With national registers that indicate kinship, places, socio-economic status, mental health and educational background, the researchers in ELiSE want to get a representative picture of the development in the population. With a health study, researchers will be able to study genes and the environment for social inequality and mental health. This innovative investigation of the interaction between neighborhood and risk in families will help us understand inequality in mental health and school difficulties.

Children’s socio-economic status (SES) at birth is given by the status of their parents. Social inequality plays out in the neighborhood children live in . Parental and neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with child mental health problems and educational difficulties. These factors together predict a person’s health and success in adulthood. It remains poorly understood how and why early life SES is linked to mental health and educational performance, because environmental disadvantages are intertwined with genetic vulnerabilities. We propose a groundbreaking paradigm integrating temporal, spatial, social, genetic, and individual levels of inference. Studying individuals with similar genetic profiles will allow the ELiSE project uncover the influences of time periods, places, schools, and families. This will allow us to jointly evaluate hypotheses on direct and indirect pathways into poor mental health and academic failure. The ELiSE study will offer entirely new means of studying (a) how risk for mental health problems and academic problems are directly and indirectly transmitted from parent to child, (b) why early mental health problems increase the risk of academic failure, (c) how genetic and environmental factors interact to reveal protective environments, and (d) which characteristics of neighborhoods are optimal for children’s development. With Norwegian national registries giving full genealogy and year-by-year event data on place of residence, SES, mental health, and educational performance, we will be in the position to consider the entire country - since 1940 - as a research laboratory. Within the registry data, we will nest a population-based cohort study comprising 100 000 genotyped families with a wide array of survey data. This unprecedented investigation of the interplay between neighborhood and family factors will help us grasp inequity in mental health and educational outcomes.

Funding scheme:

FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

Funding Sources