teenagers talking
Original Published Date: 
Friday, June 26, 2020

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course.

A global mental health study led by ARC-supported researchers at the ARC Centre fo Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Life Course Centre) 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 overall pooled prevalence was approximately one in five.

Life Course Centre PhD student Tuhin Biswas, who is based at The University of Queensland Institute for Social Science Research, said those at highest risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and anxiety were older teenage girls from low income backgrounds with no close friends.

“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 between different continental regions. Teenagers from Africa had the highest rates of suicidal thoughts at 21 per cent, while the lowest was in Asia at 8 per cent. The highest rate of teenage anxiety, at 17 per cent, was in the Eastern Mediterranean, while Europe had the lowest rate at 4 per cent,” says Tuhin Biswas.

The research team found 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.

Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun, a Chief investigator at the Life Course Centre and supervisor of Mr Biswas, said mental health remained under-reported in many low-to-middle 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 Janeen Baxter, Director of the Life Course Centre, said adolescence was a pivotal developmental stage that exerted life-long influence on health and wellbeing. She said mental health issues came with enormous personal, social and economic costs in lost opportunities and required strategic early intervention.

Photo credit: 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).