The leading cause of disabiity in world's youth - mental illness

The leading cause of disability in world’s youth – mental illness

By William Smith

If we could improve the general health, well-being and habits of our youth we could have a generation of fitter, happier and healthier adults.

Consider the fact that major depression, alcohol use, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the main causes of illness around the world among young people.  This accounts for almost half of the disease burden on this population according to new research by investigators at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A study, published online in The Lancet on 7th June, shows that across the globe these disorders make up 45% of the disease burden among people aged between 10 and 24 years of age.

This age group accounts for 27% of the world’s population.  According to the study important health problems and risk factors for disease in later life emerge in these years.

The study authors note that there has been no investigation of lifestyle factors that start in adolescence and can lead to future disability.  However, recent research has reported global patterns of death in young people.

‘This is the first systematic description of global disease burden arising during adolescence and young adulthood.  It provides the most complete overview, until now, of disease burden for this age group and is seen as complimentary to Patton and colleagues’ 2009 paper, which provided an overview of global mortality patterns.’ the study authors, led by Fiona M. Gore, MSc, write.

The investigators describe the global burden of disease arising in young people and the contribution of risk factors to that burden.  They used data from the Global Burden of Disease to  estimate the cause-specific disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for young people.  They describe the contribution of the key global and regional risk factors for the burden of disease. 

The study reports that the main global risk factors for future disability in all age groups (0-80) are underweight, unsafe sex, alcohol use, unclean water and pr sanitation and hygiene.  The main risk factors in adolescence were alcohol used, unsafe sex, iron deficiency and lack of contraception.

The authors say ‘The disease burden arising in early adolescence from major risk factors is low.  However, rates rise sharply in late adolescence and early adulthood for both alcohol use and unsafe sex.  For other risk factors that commonly start in adolescence, such as tobacco use, low physical activity, high blood pressure, overweight, and obesity, their contribution to disease become apparent only in mid-to-late adulthood.’

The study calls for preventative strategies that ‘adopt a life-course approach whereby the focus on the adolescent and young adult years is prominent’.

John S Santelli, MD, MPH and Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, Columbia University, New York City, said that the study provides new risk estimates for global disease burden in young people.

‘Interventions that increase resilience, e.g. efforts for increasing the connections of adolescents to communities, schools and family, are crucial for health promotion in young people.  Furthermore, targeted public health interventions, including enforcement of seatbelts laws, redesign of cars, implementation of tobacco taxes, and distribution of condoms, are essential for reducing morbidity and mortality’ they said. 

Further help on depression

We hope you have found this information useful, please also see:

Your rating: None Average: 10 (1 vote)