Coping with a mental disorder during the teen years can negatively affect a person's overall quality of life in adulthood, say researchers from Columbia University in New York City.
In 1985 and 1986, 608 teens and their moms noted whether the teens had experienced:
- physical illnesses (such as allergies or asthma), orthopedic problems or chronic pain, migraine, chronic headaches, epilepsy, heart problems, mononucleosis, vision problems, or hearing problems within the last year
- mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse disorder
- personality disorders, such as schizophrenia, paranoia, or obsessive-compulsive disorders
In 2001 to 2004, the study participants (now about 33 years of age) answered questions about their quality of life, including their physical health, their psychological well-being, their social relationships, and their functioning at home and at work.
Compared with people who didn't have any illness or disorder during the teen years, study participants who'd had physical illnesses had poorer physical health in adulthood. Those who'd had mental disorders during the teen years reported both poorer physical health and more problems with social relationships. Those who'd experienced personality disorders in adolescence fared worse in adulthood. They reported:
- poorer physical health
- more problems with social relationships
- worse psychological well-being
- more problems in their environment, such as access to medical care or feeling safe in their homes
Participants who'd experienced both physical illness and mental health problems tended to struggle with all aspects of their lives - their physical health, psychological well-being, social relationships, and functioning at home and at work.
What This Means to You
Many mental health disorders tend to start in adolescence, and according to the results of this study, they can continue to have a negative impact on a person's adult life. The good news is that with early treatment and care, many children and teens with these disorders can live happy, productive lives. If you notice signs of depression, anxiety, substance use, or obsessive behavior in your child, talk to your child's doctor or a mental health professional.
Source: Henian Chen, MD, PhD; Patricia Cohen, PhD; Stephanie Kasen, PhD; Jeffrey G. Johnson, PhD; Kathy Berenson, PhD; Kathy Gordon; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, January 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2006