Mental Health in Adolescents:
Analysis of a Nationally Representative Dataset, 2009-2018
by Elena Su
Abstract – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescence marks a period of vulnerability for the onset of mental health conditions. Depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability in all adolescents. In this paper, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Heath (NSDUH; N=563,275), a nationally representative survey of U.S. adolescents and adults, were analyzed. Between 2009 and 2018, increases in rates of major depressive episodes (MDE) in the past year (66.5%), serious psychological distress in the last month (82.7%), serious thinking about killing self in the past year (59.5%) were observed among adolescents, with girls having higher rates of MDE than boys (20.89% vs. 8.28% in 2018) and also higher percent change in rates than boys (70.0% vs 62.1%). The same trend was not found for adults ages 26 and over. Black non-Hispanic adolescents had a lower rate of MDE than other race/ethnicity groups in all years (9.83% vs. at least 14.66% in 2018). Results suggest the need for more mental health prevention and treatment programs for adolescents, who are undergoing a critical juncture in their development.
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