Almost one in three boys and and more than half of girls have an episode of depression or anxiety during their teens.
However, Australian research has found that many episodes, especially when brief in duration, are limited to these teenage years and do not carry on or recur in adulthood.
That’s the good news.
The bad is that about half of boys and two-thirds of girls who experienced mental health problems in adolescence continued to have problems in their twenties.
A study by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, published in The Lancet, followed 1,900 adolescents from 1992 to 2008. It assessed participants for common mental disorders at five points during adolescence and three in young adulthood.
Of those with young adult disorders most had already had problems in adolescence, a finding that was very clear for girls.
Yet reaching your twenties without problems was not a guarantee against mental health problems. Almost one in five had first episodes in their twenties, suggesting that the risk period for onset of depression and anxiety problems extends into young adulthood.
Rates of ongoing disorders were higher for girls who experienced persistent disorders in adolescence and in those with a background of parental separation or divorce.
Lead researcher George Patton said the study confirmed the high prevalence of mental health disorders across adolescence and young adulthood but was encouraged 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,” Professor Patton said.
“Most young adults with depression and anxiety had clear cut problems in their teenage years.”
However, a majority of those with single brief episodes, lasting less than six months, had no further episodes in young adulthood.
Many mental health problems resolve as young people make the transition into adulthood.
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