E-News from Washington | Vol. 08-47
December 5, 2008
Mental Problems Afflict 1 in 5 Young Adults
According to a new study published in the December 1, 2008, edition of Archives of General Psychiatry, almost 20 percent of young adults, ages 9 to 25, have psychiatric disorders that interfere with their everyday life. The study also found that even more of these youths abuse drugs or alcohol.
The disorders include obsessive or compulsive tendencies, paranoid behaviors that interfere with normal function, and anti-social behavior, which left untreated could potentially lead to violence. The researchers also found that less than 25 percent of these college-aged youth actually seek treatment. When substance abuse is considered, the research showed that almost half of the young people evaluated suffer from some type of psychiatric condition.
During the study, called the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, face-to-face interviews were performed with 5,092 young people during 2001 and 2002, and questions were posed regarding symptoms of various disorders. The trained interviewers used an assessment tool that is similar to measures used by doctors and other mental health professionals to diagnose mental illness. The tool is considered valid and more precise than self-reports of mental illness.
Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, and study co-author described the prevalent lack of treatment as especially troubling, stating that it should not only alert students and parents, but also deans and people who run college mental health services about the need to extend access to treatment.
It was noted by the study authors that fatal shootings like those that occurred at both Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech have heightened the awareness of how common the presence of mental illness has become on college campuses. They believe that this is an indication of the age group being particularly vulnerable to these psychiatric conditions.
According to the authors, For many, young adulthood is characterized by the pursuit of greater educational opportunities and employment prospects, development of personal relationships, and for some, parenthood. These aspects of life of can cause a level of stress that triggers either the beginning or recurrence of psychiatric disorders.
The most common personality disorder found among the study participants was obsessive-compulsive personality disorder noted in about 8 percent of both students and non-students. The illness can cause an extreme preoccupation with details, rules, orderliness and perfectionism. Substance abuse was found to affect almost one-third of all participants including both students and non-students. However, more college students were found to be problem drinkers at 20 percent, than non-students at 17 percent whereas more non-students abused drugs at almost 7 percent versus only 5 percent of college students.
Both groups were found to have about 8 percent with phobias and 7 percent suffering from depression. In addition, bipolar disorder was more common in non-students, with almost 5 percent having the condition compared to about 3 percent of students.
E-News from Washington is provided for informational purposes only by the American Mental Health Counselors Association.