Teen brides at higher risk of mental illness

Teen brides at higher risk of mental illness

By Liz Lockhart

Young teenage brides have higher rates of lifetime mental illness than women who marry as adults, a new study discovered.

This study was undertaken by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and is published in the journal Paediatrics.

Researchers reviewed statistics from the United States National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and found that among American women who were married before the age of 18 there is a significant trend toward mental health problems.

 ‘We found that the level of lifetime mental disorders among women married as children is much higher than for women married as adults,’ said psychiatrist Dr. Yann Le Strat, principal investigator on the study. ‘Being married as a child is associated with a 41 percent increase in the prevalence of psychiatric disorder.’

The study noted that almost 9% of females in the United States were married before the age of 18.

The study states that the most common mental health problems associated with women who were married as children are mood and anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, bipolar disorder and depression.

The researchers found that women who married when young were also more likely to have a lower level of education and income, and generally come from rural areas of the United States.  They were also at a higher risk of being dependent on nicotine.

The investigators believe that this points to a possible global public health concern as their findings can be extrapolated to other countries where child marriage is common.

Le Strat said ‘In many developing countries, it is common for women to be married as children.  In India, for example, about half of women are married before the age of 18.’

Co-author, Dr. Bernard Le Foll, said ‘We know that child marriage is associated with elevated risks of HIV transmission, unwanted pregnancy and death from childbirth.  But while previous studies have looked at the physical health consequences of child marriage, the impact on mental health had never been studied before.’

‘Our research may help governments deliver mental health services and could help inform debate around marriage legislation,’ he added.

The researchers found that the mental health conditions mimic that of general society where mood and anxiety disorders are common.  However, the prevalence of these disorders in young women is 1.5 times that of men.

Treatment intervention, which includes prescription medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy were found to be successful in managing the conditions.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


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