01 August 2011

Mental Diseases and Youth Disability

Mental Diseases
According to Australian researchers, mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia play an important factor in determining the disability among young people around the world.

Researchers from the Melbourne-based Murdoch Children's Research Institute worked with the World Health Organization to analyze the "disease burden" carried by young people. They used international data to calculate and rank various health conditions. They then multiplied that figure by the number of years a person was likely to live with the disability. The researchers also considered years lost due to the disease in their study.

According to the paper's co-author Professor George Patton, the figures, which considered millions of global participants, revealed 45 percent of the burden among 10 to 24- year-olds could be attributed to mental disorders.

In particular, depression, schizophrenia, self-harm, alcohol misuse and bipolar disorder ranked among the top 10 disability burdens.

In high-income countries, like Australia, mental illness accounted for two-thirds of the age group's disease burden.

"That's largely because we have been very successful in dealing with other causes of disease burden (like HIV and tuberculosis)," Prof Patton told Australia Associated Press recently.

"(Locally) the disease burden is driven by conditions causing disability rather than death."

Also contributing to the disease burden of 10 to 24-year-olds in Australia were unintentional injuries (12 percent) and infectious diseases (10 percent).

He noted that the burden of disease increased steadily with age.

Meanwhile, Professor Patton said the study, the first to analyze the global causes of disability in adolescence, could be used to identify risk factors for disease later in life.

"Although the lifestyles that young people adopt might not have an immediate effect on their health, they have substantial effects later in life," he said.

"Interventions to address health risk behaviors and unhealthy lifestyles are likely to be more effective in these years than in adulthood when patterns are established."