One-Third of Teens Have a Mental Disorder and a Physical Disease

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More than one-third of U.S. teenagers have reported at least one mental disorder and one chronic physical disease, and researchers say that the illnesses often occur in specific associations.

For example, depression often accompanies digestive system diseases in this population, eating disorders with seizures, and anxiety disorders with arthritis, heart disease and digestive illnesses, according to the researchers.

Marion Tegethoff, PhD, of the University of Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 6,500 U.S. adolescents, aged between 13 and 18, in a national representative cohort. They found that just over 35% reported at least one mental disorder and physical disease, they reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

The strongest association with found between affective disorders, such as depression, and digestive illnesses. Adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders had higher than average rates of arthritis and heart disease. Age, gender or socioeconomic status did not influence the correlations.

However, the researchers caution that due to the study design, results do not indicate if and how mental disorder and physical diseases are connected.

“Future studies should identify risk factors as well as the biological and psychological mechanisms responsible for these associations, in order to develop interdisciplinary approaches,” Tegethoff said in a statement.

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One-Third of Teens Have a Mental Disorder and a Physical Disease

Every third teenager has suffered from one mental disorder and one physical disease. These co-occurrences come in specific associations: More often than average, depression occurs together with diseases of the digestive system, eating disorders with seizures and anxiety disorders together with arthritis, heart disease as well as diseases of the digestive system.

These findings were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Their results based on data from 6,500 U.S. teenagers have been published in the scientific journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

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