Consequences of the Youth Mental Health Crisis

Adolescents and young adults who suffer from mental disorders often face other long-term health consequences stemming from their diseases. When it comes to depression, for example, studies have shown that:

  • Depression is commonly associated with other illnesses. In the 2018 Health of America Report published by Blue Cross Blue Shield, researchers found that it was highly likely for those suffering from depression to struggle with other health conditions. Of the over 9 million commercially insured people diagnosed in 2016, only 15% (1,350,000) suffered from depression alone — 85% (7,650,000) had one or more additional health conditions, with 29% (2,610,000) having four or more. Findings also showed that people with depression were three times more likely to suffer from pain-related disorders and seven times more likely to suffer from alcohol or substance use disorders than people who were not depressed.  

Another study that looked at depression and its association specifically with psychiatric disorders found that of a sample of more than 36,000 individuals with a lifetime history of depression, 37.3% (13,428) reported experience with anxiety, 38.9% (14,004) had nicotine use disorders, and 31.9% (11,484) reported struggling with a personality disorder.

  • Depression is likely to worsen the health of an individual over a lifetime. The 2018 Health of America Report also found that depressed patients had more than double the health care spending ($10,673 vs. $4,283), were almost 30% less healthy, and lost nearly ten years of healthy life when compared to their non-depressed counterparts. 
  • Depression is associated with increased suicide risk. The mortality risk from suicide is over 20-fold greater for those with depression. According to a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that analyzed the suicide rates of teens from 1975 to 2015, the suicide rate for males between the ages of 15 and 19 years old increased by 31% — up to 14.2 per 100,000 males in that age range — between 2007 and 2015. While still lower than the suicide rate for males, the rate for females doubled from 2007 to 2015 to reach a 40-year high.

Supporting Today’s Youth in the Fight for Improved Mental Health

There is heavy speculation about the cause of rising rates of mental health disorders in today’s youth, but whatever the exact causes, the impact on young people is one that deserves the full attention of the behavioral health community. Youth today are faced with a world far different from previous generations, with myriad variables impacting their mental health both for better and worse — but with adequate support, these trends can be reversed and young people can live happy, healthy lives.

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