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Mental wellbeing and depression: Let's talk

April 7th is World Health Day and this year the theme is 'Depression: let's talk'.

Despite being very common and affecting anyone at any stage of life, depression is still vastly under-recognised and undertreated; there is, consequently, a need to open up dialogue and tackle the stigma associated with this highly disabling condition.

Feeling low in adolescence

Low mood during adolescence comes in various forms and is often hard to identify. It can have a negative impact on day-to-day functioning and is associated with sadness, anxiety, worry, tiredness, low self-esteem, frustration or anger. Feeling low from time to time can be totally normal for adolescents. However, regular and prolonged periods of low mood can progress to depression and negatively impact long-term health, wellbeing and development.

According to Growing up Unequal, the latest HBSC international report, among European adolescents, the percentage of young people reporting to experience low mood more than once a week increases between the ages of 11 (13%) and 15 (21%), with this change greater among girls than boys. By age 15, 29% of 15 year old girls report feeling low more than once a week; compared with 13% of 15 year old boys.

Young people who report longer-lasting low moods are more likely to experience a range of problems such as:

  • Reduced academic performance,

  • social isolation,

  • alcohol and drug use,

  • unhealthy diet,

  • disrupted sleep,

  • aggressive behaviour,

  • reduced levels of physical activity,

  • increased risk of obesity, and

  • increased risk of developing depression later in life.

Experiencing stress is one of the most common causes of low mood. Other triggers include feeling uncomfortable, relationship problems, peer pressure, school pressure, sleep difficulties, bullying, bereavement or hormonal changes.

Low mood is an obstacle to everyday performance and long-term personal development. It can also disrupt a young person’s functioning at home, in school and in interactions with friends. Failing to address this issue will not only result in mental and physical ill health in adolescence, but can have wide-reaching consequences in later life.

About half of all mental health problems in adulthood have their onset during or before adolescence. Poor mental health in adolescence is linked to unemployment, crime and increased rates of smoking, drug use, obesity and future mental ill health. Thus improving mood and resilience to mental illness among young people is very important. Support and early interventions, designed to promote wellbeing are key to this.

Being in good emotional and physical health enables young people to deal with the challenges of adolescence and eases their transition into adulthood. Positive mental wellbeing in childhood is associated with increased social competence and good coping strategies that lead to more positive outcomes in adulthood. Addressing low feelings among young people and teaching coping mechanisms that promote resilience is vital to protect and promote their mental health.

Data from the HBSC study has been used in many analyses of the social determinants of mental wellbeing among children and young people. To coincide with World Health Day 2017 we have prepared a round-up of the latest peer-reviewed publications on this topic: World Health Day: HBSC mental health research round-up

For more information on World Health Day 2017, visit the WHO campaign page.

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[07-04-2017 to 31-07-2017]


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