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Few Young Adults Seek Treatment for Psych Disorders

Alcohol, nicotine use, personality illnesses common, study shows

MONDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Psychiatric disorders are common among young adults in the United States, but few seek treatment, a new report shows.

To reach this finding, U.S. researchers analyzed data from more than 5,000 respondents, aged 19 to 25, who took part in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

The study found that 45.8 percent of the 2,188 college students and 47.7 percent of the young adults not in college met the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder, but only 25 percent of those with disorders sought treatment over a one-year period.

Among college students, the most common disorders were alcohol use (20.4 percent) and personality disorders (17.7 percent). The most common disorders among young adults not in college were personality disorders (21.6 percent) and nicotine dependence (20.7 percent).

College students were less likely to have drug-use disorders, nicotine dependence or bipolar disorder, and were less likely to have used tobacco than young adults not in college. But college students risk of alcohol use disorders was much greater. College students were significantly less likely than young adults not in college to receive treatment for alcohol or drug-use disorders.

The study was published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"In view of the high prevalence and low rate of treatment of alcohol-use disorders in college students, greater efforts to implement screening and intervention programs on college and university campuses are warranted," wrote Dr. Carlos Blanco, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, New York, and colleagues. "The centralized delivery of campus student health services might offer an advantageous structure for carrying out such screening and interventions."

The researchers noted there's a high overall rate of psychiatric disorders among young adults, who are at a vulnerable stage of development.

"The vast majority of disorders in this population can be effectively treated with evidence-based psychosocial and pharmacological approaches," they wrote. "Early treatment could reduce the persistence of these disorders and their associated functional impairment, loss of productivity and increased health-care costs. As these young people represent our nation's future, urgent action is needed to increase detection and treatment of psychiatric disorders among college students and their non-college-attending peers."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about mental health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 1, 2008

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