Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2023:2: Adolescent Mental Health: Impact of Introducing Earlier Compulsory School Grades

Anna Linder (), Ulf-G Gerdtham () and Gawain Heckley ()
Additional contact information
Anna Linder: Health Economics Unit, Department of Clinical Science, Lund University
Ulf-G Gerdtham: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: School of Economics and Management, Box 7080, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Gawain Heckley: Health Economics Unit, Department of Clinical Science, Lund University

Abstract: The prevalence of mental illness is increasing among adolescents in many developed countries, and factors such as increased academic pressure and earlier introduction of performance evaluation may in part explain this trend. We study the effect of introducing earlier grades in compulsory school on adolescent mental health in Sweden. To do so, we exploit a grading reform in Swedish schools in which grades were introduced in 6th grade instead of 8th grade. Controlling for potential age effects in a difference-in-discontinuities setup, we show that girls who are exposed to earlier grades are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety by the end of compulsory school. We do not find similar effects among boys. These results indicate that the mental well-being of girls may be particularly influenced by educational assessments such as grades during early years, which suggests that potential health effects of different grading systems should be considered.

Keywords: education policy; school grades; mental health; human capital development

JEL-codes: I10; I21; I28

Language: English

40 pages, First version: March 13, 2023. Revised: November 10, 2023. Earlier revisions: November 10, 2023.

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