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Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in young people – The Chart

Mental health problems such as depression account for nearly half of all disabilities among young people aged 10 to 24, according to a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The researchers looked at data from 191 countries and estimated the number of healthy years lost due to disability resulting from illness and injury (called disability-adjusted life years). Among adolescents and young adults, 45% of disabilities were related to depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and other mental disorders, including alcohol abuse.

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Dr John S. Santelli, MD, professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, says, luckily, the mental health issues behind the a young person’s disability generally respond to prevention. , early detection and treatment.

“There are much better behavioral treatments, there are also much better pharmacological treatments,” said Santelli, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, which was published in The Lancet. “We know what to do. We just need to do it.”

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The study was the first to examine the international burden of disability among young people. Globally, researchers estimated, disability has cost this group an estimated 236 million healthy years, which includes both the estimated and actual years of life lost due to illness and premature death. .

After mental disorders, accidental injuries were the second leading cause of disability at 12%, followed by communicable diseases (including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis) at 10%.

The main risk factors for disability were drug and alcohol use, unprotected sex, lack of contraception, and iron deficiency, a common sign of malnutrition.

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“Youth is seen as a time of good health,” says one of the study’s authors, Fiona M. Gore, a WHO researcher in Geneva, Switzerland. However, she says, “important health factors and risk factors for disease later in life emerge during these years.”

The study revealed some regional and socio-economic differences. Compared to the world as a whole, for example, mental disorders account for a greater proportion of disability in the United States, Europe, and countries with high per capita income. In contrast, disabilities from injuries and communicable diseases were lower in these countries than in the world.

“There is a need to focus on prevention strategies and on health promotion of the causes of non-communicable and non-fatal disease in young people,” says Gore.

Copyright 2011 Health Magazine

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