Mental health promotion and socio-economic disadvantage: lessons from substance abuse, violence and crime prevention and child health Academic Article uri icon


  • ISSUE ADDRESSED:Mental health promotion aimed at populations with low socio-economic status (SES) may benefit by investigating prevention strategies that effectively address related child and adolescent problems. METHODS:Evidence from a number of literature reviews and program evaluations was synthesised. First, the impact of SES on development from childhood to adulthood is considered in light of research on substance abuse, violence, crime, and child development problems. Second, evaluations of interventions are reviewed to identify those that have shown outcomes in research studies (efficacy) or in real-world settings (effectiveness) in reducing developmental problems associated with low SES. Low SES is measured in different ways including low levels of education and/or income or definitions that combine several variables into a new indicator of low SES. RESULTS:Factors associated with low SES are also associated to varying extent with the development of violence and crime, substance abuse and child health problems. Interventions that address underlying determinants of low SES show strong efficacy in decreasing adolescent crime and violence and effectiveness in improving child health outcomes. Although there is limited efficacy evidence that substance abuse prevention can be effectively addressed by targeting low SES, programs designed to improve educational pathways show some efficacy in reducing aspects of adolescent substance use. CONCLUSION:Mental health promotion strategies can draw on the approaches outlined here that are associated with the prevention of child and adolescent problems within low SES communities. Alternatively, such interventions could be supported in mental health promotion policy as they may assist in preventing related problems that undermine mental health.


  • Toumbourou, JW
  • Hemphill, SA
  • Tresidder, J
  • Humphreys, C
  • Edwards, J
  • Murray, D

publication date

  • 2007