Mental health problems such as depression account for nearly half of all disability among young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Looking at data from 191 countries, 45% of disability among adolescents and young adults was related to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.
After mental disorders, accidental injuries were the second largest cause of disability (12%), followed by communicable diseases including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis (10%).
The top risk factors for disability were drug and alcohol use, risky sexual practices, and iron deficiency, a common sign of malnutrition.
The study noted socioeconomic and regional differences in the data. Mental disorders account for a greater proportion of disability in the U.S., Europe, and in other nations with relatively high per-capita income. Disability due to injuries and communicable diseases was found to be lower in those countries than worldwide.
The good news is that mental health issues at the root of a young person’s disability can respond well to prevention, early detection, and behavioral and/or pharmocological treatments.