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Mental Health Leading Cause of Disability Among Youth

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According to a new study, mental health problems are the leading cause of disability among children, teens and young adults around the world.

In order to come to their conclusions, researchers studied global data that had been collected in 2004 which found that disorders like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and alcohol use made up 45 percent of the disease burdens among 10 to 24 year olds. This total was substantially higher than the next two highest-ranking forms of disability among young people which were accidental injuries at 12 percent and infectious and parasitic diseases at 10 percent.

It was also noted that important risk factors that impacted mental health later in life included alcohol use, iron deficiency, lack of birth control and unsafe sex.

"The disease burden arising in early adolescence from major risk factors is low," the researchers noted. "However, rates rise sharply in late adolescence and early adulthood for both alcohol and unsafe sex. For other risk factors that commonly start in adolescence, such as tobacco use, low physical activity, high blood pressure, and overweight and obesity, their contribution to disease becomes apparent only in mid- to-late adulthood," said Fiona M. Gore, of the department of health statistics and informatics at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and colleagues.

"Our risk factor data suggest that preventive strategies should adopt a life-course approach whereby the focus on the adolescent and young-adult years is prominent," the authors concluded in the report published online June 7 in The Lancet.

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