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Teen mental health study

Teen mental health study

Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

A global mental health study led by ARC-supported researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Life Course Centre), administered by The University of Queensland, has found approximately one in five teenagers experience thoughts of suicide or anxiety.

The study investigated data collected from more than 275,000 adolescents aged between 12-17 years across 82 low, middle and high income countries. It found 14 per cent of adolescents had suicidal thoughts and 9 per cent had anxiety over a 12-month period.

The study, led by Life Course Centre PhD student (now Research Fellow), Tuhin Biswas, showed that in every country, teens with fewer peer and parental supports and higher levels of parental control were more likely to report thoughts of suicide and anxiety. The risks were also higher for teens who had experienced peer conflict, victimisation, isolation and loneliness.

‘Our study shows many adolescents around the world, irrespective of their country’s income status, experience suicidal thoughts and anxiety, but there is high variation across countries and different continental regions,’ says Tuhin Biswas.

Co-authors on the study included Life Course Centre Chief Investigator Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun and Life Course Centre Director Professor Janeen Baxter.

Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun said mental health remained under-reported in many low-to-middle income countries due to social stigma, religious or cultural taboos, and inadequate mental health resources. Of the 82 countries in this study, 36 had no specific mental health policy.

Professor Baxter says the study provides the evidence base to help identify protective factors against adolescent suicidal ideation and anxiety, and to inform targeted responses in policy and practice.

‘These could include peer-based programs to enhance social connectedness and parent skills training to improve parent-child relationships. Family environments and peer relationships have a critical role to play in adolescent mental health. It is also important to tailor protective strategies in line with regional, socioeconomic and cultural circumstances.’

The study is based on data collected in the World Health Organization Global School-based Health Surveys between 2003 and 2015. Participants were asked if they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months, and if they had been so worried about something they could not sleep at night.



‘Adolescence is a pivotal developmental stage that exerts life-long influence on health and wellbeing. Mental health issues come with enormous personal, social and economic costs in lost opportunities and requires strategic early intervention.’ Professor Janeen Baxter, director of the life course centre.

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