Suicide: Mental illness ‘increases university test scores’

Image copyright James Leeson Image caption There was a 97% increase in suicide deaths in Wales between 2012 and 2016 A pandemic of mental illness has caused young people to do worse on tests…

Suicide: Mental illness 'increases university test scores'

Image copyright James Leeson Image caption There was a 97% increase in suicide deaths in Wales between 2012 and 2016

A pandemic of mental illness has caused young people to do worse on tests than adults, reports BBC Wales’ Scrutiny Unit.

Researchers found mental illness increased the odds of poorer performance on reading and mathematics on university entrance exams.

The men’s exclusion test, taken by those who failed to gain entrance to a university, revealed a rise in average scores of 36%.

Professor Micallef said the results revealed “causes for concern”.

The tests used to assess men’s achievement at university are linked to the spectrum of mental illness.

Women appear to get off lightly – tests of their performance on IQ tests have shown no significant difference.

While the tests for men and women are statistically similar, there is a huge difference in the performance of those who were diagnosed with mental illness or did not take part in the tests.

Prof Graeme Micallef of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, one of the study’s authors, said this was the first time an overlap between exam success and mental illness has been seen.

Image copyright James Leeson Image caption Professor Micallef said the levels of mental illness revealed were “serious”

“The results showed there was a significant increase in average scores on the men’s exclusion test for pupils failing to gain entry to university – a 36% increase, relative to non-ill students,” he said.

“These results are alarming.

“They show that the level of exam performance suffered by young people with a history of mental illness is higher than that of the general population.”

In stark contrast, levels of mental illness show only a modest impact on the gender divide.

It is also been suggested that cognitive ability was protected by family history for women, and that this protection may have diminished in men.

Image copyright James Leeson Image caption Professor Micallef was concerned for the mental health of those affected

The findings have been published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

A wider analysis of around 5,000 Welsh pupils’ performance on exams by Cardiff University suggests rates of mental ill health could have been around four times greater than the national average.

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