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Developing our brains from cradle to grave

10/22/2008 15:19:43

Professor Cary Cooper
Professor Cary Cooper

A Lancaster University Professor is one of the authors of a major new report on mental well being published by a Government think tank.

Professor Cary Cooper was a lead scientist on the report ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing' published by Foresight, the Government’s futures think tank. The report was featured in Nature and covered extensively in the media.

The study looks at how a person’s mental resources change through life, as a child, adult and in old age, and identifies factors that can help or hinder their development.

Its main findings are that:

Early intervention is crucial in developing and maintaining mental capital and mental wellbeing – whether it’s spotting and treating learning difficulties in children and young people or developing biomarkers to diagnose dementia earlier in older people;

A small increase in levels of wellbeing can produce a large decrease in mental health problems across people of all ages;

There is substantial scope for improving how to tackle the huge problem of mental-ill-health, which costs up to £77 billion a year for England alone.

The study concludes that there is a clear case for action across society by Government, companies and individuals, to boost both mental capital and wellbeing. This could reap very high economic and social benefits in the future.

The report, sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), outlines the findings of an extensive two-year study involving over 400 leading international experts in subjects ranging from neuroscience to economics.

Professor John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Director of the Foresight Programme, said:

“This report gives us new insights, based on cutting-edge science, into the challenges ahead and how they might be addressed. It contains a range of proposals for society and Government to consider.

“There is good work being done but progress can be made and taxpayers money saved if government departments work together more effectively to tackle these issues.

“Investing to identify and tackle learning difficulties early on and improving the take up of education and learning will result in people getting better jobs. The report has shown that if an individual is fulfilled in their work this positively affects wellbeing, this in turn will see reduced expenditure on the treatment of mental health problems.

“Acting now in a co-ordinated way is even more important as the pressures on our society change – this is particularly pertinent in the current climate. Competition from abroad and uncertain economic times will drive people to work harder and smarter. Both will result in increasing demands made on individuals and the state”.

Download the full report at