Briefing paper

Executive functions: a crucial but overlooked factor for lifelong wellbeing

Brain development Social outcomes Children New Zealand

Executive functions refer to the set of cognitive processes that help us learn, pay attention, control our emotions, and work towards a goal. Having well-developed executive functions is highly predictive of lifelong wellbeing while having impaired executive functions puts a person at greater risk of school failure, employment issues, poorer physical and mental health, and antisocial behaviours. These problems may pass down to the next generation, imposing a high burden on society.

The document overs the crucial role of executive functions in helping us live well and contribute to wider society. Since executive functions are mostly established in the first few years of life, it is critical to promote brain health in young children to help them reach their full potential. Meeting this challenge will require a whole-of-government approach.

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