JOURNAL ARTICLE

Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication—Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)

Kathleen Ries Merikangas, Jian-Ping He, Marcy Burstein, Sonja A Swanson, Shelli Avenevoli, Lihong Cui, Corina Benjet, Katholiki Georgiades, Joel Swendsen
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2010, 49 (10): 980-9
20855043

OBJECTIVE: To present estimates of the lifetime prevalence of DSM-IV mental disorders with and without severe impairment, their comorbidity across broad classes of disorder, and their sociodemographic correlates.

METHOD: The National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement NCS-A is a nationally representative face-to-face survey of 10,123 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years in the continental United States. DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the fully structured World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

RESULTS: 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 participants 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, and 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.

CONCLUSIONS: 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 four to five 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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