The National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement NCS-A is a nationally representative face-to-face survey of 10,123 adolescents aged 13–18 years in the continental U.S. DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the fully structured World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
Anxiety disorders were the most common condition (31.9%), followed by behavior disorders (19.1%), mood disorders (14.3%), and substance use disorders (11.4%), with approximately 40% of those with one class of disorder also meeting criteria for another class of lifetime disorder. The overall prevalence of disorders with severe impairment and/or distress was 22.2%; (11.2% with mood disorders; 8.3% with anxiety disorders; 9.6% behavior disorders). The median age of onset for disorder classes was earliest for anxiety (6 years), followed by 11 years for behavior, 13 years for mood, and 15 years for substance use disorders.
These findings provide the first prevalence data on a broad range of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents. Approximately one in every 4–5 youth in the U.S. meets criteria for a mental disorder with severe impairment across their lifetime. The likelihood that common mental disorders in adults first emerge in childhood and adolescence highlights the need for a transition from the common focus on treatment of U.S. youth to that of prevention and early intervention.
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