Almost a third of males and more than half of females have an episode of depression or anxiety during their teens. However many episodes, especially when brief in duration, are limited to these teenage years and do not carry on or recur in adulthood, a study by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute has found.
The study, published in The Lancet, followed over 1900 adolescents from 1992 through to 2008. It assessed participants for common mental disorders at five points during adolescence and three in young adulthood.
Around half of boys and two-thirds of girls who experienced mental health problems in adolescence continued to have problems in their twenties.
Of those with young adult disorders most had already had problems in adolescence, a finding that was particularly clear for females. Yet reaching your 20’s without problems was not a guarantee against mental health problems. Almost one in five had first episodes in their 20’s, suggesting that the risk period for onset of depression and anxiety problems extends into young adulthood.
Rates of ongoing disorders were higher for those who experienced persistent disorders in adolescence, in female participants, and in those with a background of parental separation or divorce.
Lead researcher, Professor George Patton said the study confirmed the high prevalence of mental health disorders across adolescence and young adulthood, but was encouraged by the finding that almost half with a disorder in adolescence had no further issues.
“There is no doubt that adolescence is a high-risk phase for the onset of common mental disorders. When these emotional problems persist for more than six months they are often precursors of ongoing mental health problems into young adulthood. Most young adults with depression and anxiety had clear cut problems in their teenage years.”
“However, our finding, that a majority of those with single brief episodes, lasting less than six months, had no further episodes in young adulthood is striking. A further near-halving of risk for continuity into the late 20’s suggests that many mental health problems resolve as young people make the transition into adulthood.”
Researchers say the resolution of many adolescent disorders gives reason for optimism that interventions which shorten the duration of episodes could prevent it from reoccurring or continuing into adulthood.
(Source: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Lancet)