Research — 16 January 2014

Most teenagers who are plagued by short bouts of depression and anxiety in  adolescence will fully recover by adulthood, a  study has found.

Health experts said the findings will be a relief for parents concerned that  common mood disorders could persist in the long term. The study of almost 2000  Australians, published in The Lancet, found  almost a third of boys and  54 per cent of girls aged 15 to 18 experienced common mental disorders in their  teenage years.

But by their late 20s,  most teens who experienced anxiety that lasted for  less than six months had no symptoms in later life. ”For about 65 per cent of  boys and half of the girls, it’s a phase limited to teenage years,” said  Professor George Patton, lead author and professor of adolescent health research  at the University of Melbourne.bigstockphoto_Sad_Girl_On_Bench_2820029

The progress may be because of ”changes in their lives, moving out of home,  starting work or just becoming emotionally mature,”  Professor Patton said.

But even though many improve, the rates for long-term problems were higher  for those who experienced ongoing problems in their teenage years, particularly  for girls with  divorced or separated parents.

For Bronwyn Collins, who has battled anxiety and depression since she was 15,  seeking help early and staying ”tuned in” to symptoms was crucial in  recovery.

”For most of my teens I kept it hidden and masked my dark thoughts from  other people,” said Ms Collins, now a youth ambassador for beyondblue in  Melbourne.  ”I thought it was just hormones so it kind of flew under the  radar.”

It was only when anxiety started to dictate her life – and her school marks  plummeted – that she sought help. ”I was very proactive. I saw a doctor, got  counselling, exercised and started eating well,” she said.

Now 24, Ms Collins has had no symptoms of depression for almost three  years.

Professor Patton said it was ”very common” for teenagers to have mood  disorders such  as ”unhappiness, irritability, sleep disturbances and often  withdrawing from social circles”.

”All the evidence points towards this generation having a higher rate of  depression than we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

The study, by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, followed teenagers  from 1992 to 2008, assessing common mental disorders at five points from the age  of 15 to 29.

”During at least one point of assessment, these kids reported significant  symptoms at a level that GPs would be concerned about,” Professor Patton said.  ”The bad news for girls is these problems tend to be more persistent. This  could be because of a biological vulnerability but most of these episodes tend  to be triggered by problems with peers, academic failure, conflicts at home and  bullying.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Kids Helpline:  1800 551 800.

This article first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald on 15 January, 2014.



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