Psychiatric disorders common among young adults

In a study of 18-24 year-olds conducted over a 12 month period, an astonishing 47 percent of the individuals assessed met the criteria for substance abuse, personality disorders or another mental health condition, yet only one-quarter of those affected sought treatment. Reporting their findings in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers noted that while young adulthood is characterized by opportunities for personal growth, “it may also result in stress that precipitates the onset or recurrence of psychiatric disorders.”

In the survey, individuals aged 19 to 25 who were attending or not attending college were interviewed and assessed for psychiatric disorders between 2001 and 2002. The researchers found that a total of 46 percent of college students and 48 percent of young adults not in college met the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder. The most common disorders in college students were alcohol use disorders (20 percent) and personality disorders (18 percent), whereas those not in college most frequently met criteria for personality disorders (22 percent) and nicotine dependence (21 percent).

Worryingly, treatment rates were low for all psychiatric disorders. College students were significantly less likely to receive treatment for alcohol or drug use disorders than those not in college. “In view of the high prevalence and low rate of treatment of alcohol use disorders in college students, greater efforts to implement screening and intervention programs on college and university campuses are warranted,” the researchers noted. “The centralized delivery of campus student health services might offer an advantageous structure for carrying out such screening and interventions.”

Overall, the authors note, the rate of psychiatric disorders is high among young adults, who are at a vulnerable stage of development. “The vast majority of disorders in this population can be effectively treated. Early treatment could reduce the persistence of these disorders and their associated functional impairment, loss of productivity and increased health care costs. As these young people represent our nation’s future, urgent action is needed,” the study concluded.

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Source: Archives of General Psychiatry

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