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Mental Health

Mental Health in Adolescents - Key facts and overview

Key Facts


- Global Prevalence: One in seven adolescents (ages 10-19) experience a mental health disorder, contributing to 13% of the global disease burden in this age group.

- Leading Disorders: Depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are the primary causes of illness and disability among teenagers.

- Suicide: Suicide ranks as the fourth leading cause of death among individuals aged 15-29.

- Long-Term Impact: Neglecting adolescent mental health can have lasting effects, impairing both physical and mental health into adulthood and reducing opportunities for a fulfilling life.




Adolescence, a critical developmental phase, encompasses individuals aged 10-19. This period is marked by significant physical, emotional, and social changes, which can be exacerbated by factors like poverty, abuse, or violence, making adolescents susceptible to mental health issues. To safeguard adolescent mental health, it's essential to shield them from adverse experiences, foster socio-emotional learning, and ensure they have access to mental health care.


Globally, about 14% of 10-19-year-olds are estimated to suffer from mental health conditions, which often go unnoticed and untreated. These adolescents are at high risk of social exclusion, stigma, educational challenges, risky behaviors, physical health issues, and human rights violations.


Mental Health Determinants


Adolescence is vital for developing habits that support mental well-being, such as regular sleep, physical activity, coping skills, and emotional regulation. Supportive environments at home, school, and in the community are crucial.


Various factors influence adolescent mental health. Greater exposure to risk factors heightens the potential impact on mental health. Stress during adolescence can stem from adversity, peer pressure, and identity exploration. Media influence and gender norms can further widen the gap between adolescents' real lives and their expectations. Family life quality and peer relationships also play significant roles, with violence, harsh parenting, and socioeconomic challenges being major risks.


Some adolescents face increased mental health risks due to their living conditions, stigma, discrimination, or lack of support. These groups include those in humanitarian settings, with chronic illnesses or disabilities, pregnant adolescents, young parents, orphans, and those from minority or marginalized communities.


Emotional Disorders


Emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are common in adolescents. Anxiety disorders, involving panic or excessive worry, affect 3.6% of 10-14-year-olds and 4.6% of 15-19-year-olds. Depression affects 1.1% of 10-14-year-olds and 2.8% of 15-19-year-olds, with both disorders impacting school attendance, social interactions, and increasing isolation.


Behavioral Disorders


Behavioral disorders, like ADHD and conduct disorder, are more prevalent among younger adolescents. ADHD affects 3.1% of 10-14-year-olds and 2.4% of 15-19-year-olds, while conduct disorder affects 3.6% of 10-14-year-olds and 2.4% of 15-19-year-olds. These disorders can disrupt education and lead to criminal behavior.


Eating Disorders


Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, often arise during adolescence. These disorders involve abnormal eating behaviors and concerns about body weight and shape. Anorexia nervosa has a high mortality rate due to medical complications or suicide.




Psychotic disorders typically emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood, characterized by hallucinations or delusions, which can severely impair daily functioning and lead to stigma and rights violations.


Suicide and Self-Harm


Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15-19. Risk factors include substance abuse, childhood abuse, stigma, barriers to care, and access to means of suicide. Digital media can influence suicide prevention efforts.


Risk-Taking Behaviors


Adolescence is a period of increased risk-taking behaviors, such as substance use and sexual activities, which can negatively affect mental and physical health. In 2016, 13.6% of adolescents aged 15-19 engaged in heavy episodic drinking, with males being most at risk. Tobacco and cannabis use also start often in adolescence, with 4.7% of 15-16-year-olds having tried cannabis by 2018. Perpetrating violence can lead to poor educational outcomes, injury, crime involvement, or death.


Promotion and Prevention


Interventions to promote mental health and prevent disorders aim to enhance emotional regulation, reduce risk-taking behaviors, build resilience, and foster supportive environments. These programs should be multi-faceted, using various platforms like digital media, schools, and community settings to reach all adolescents, especially the most vulnerable.


Early Detection and Treatment


Addressing adolescent mental health conditions early is crucial, focusing on non-pharmacological approaches, avoiding institutionalization, and respecting children's rights according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments.

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