Child Trends
January 17, 2013

The State of Mental Health Among U.S. Adolescents

Research shows that approximately one in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder, a leading cause of disability among this age group. This month, Child Trends is issuing three briefs in its Adolescent Health Highlights series focusing on adolescent mental health:


  • The Mental Health Disorders brief presents the warning signs of mental disorders; describes the types of mental disorders and their prevalence and trends; discusses the consequences and risk of mental disorders; presents treatment options and barriers to accessing mental health care; and provides mental health resources.
  • The Access to Mental Health Care brief describes barriers to treatment of adolescent mental health disorders; discusses the connection between insurance status and access to mental health treatment; and explains funding for adolescent mental health services.
  • The Positive Mental Health: Resilience brief presents key research findings on characteristics that are associated with resilience; describes program strategies that promote resilience; discusses links between resilience and avoidance of risk-taking behaviors; and provides helpful resources on the topic of resilience.

 Adolescence is a time in life when many mental health disorders first arise. These briefs highlight several facts about mental health and adolescents: 

  • More than half of all mental disorders and problems with substance abuse (such as binge drinking and illegal drug use) begin by age 14.
  • The most prevalent mental disorder experienced among adolescents is depression, with more than one in four high school students found to have at least mild symptoms of this condition.
  • The mental health needs of adolescents are often first identified in schools, where students spend so much of their time. 
  • Adolescents who are resilient find ways to reduce the negative effects of stress on their lives, such as getting regular physical exercise, avoiding substance abuse, and practicing relaxation techniques.


The briefs include strategies and approaches to reducing mental health disorders among adolescents. Early intervention or prevention can be an effective way to address potential mental disorders before they reach the stage requiring treatment. The Child Trends DataBank includes brief summaries of well-being indicators, including several that are related to mental health and mental health disorders.


Child Trends launched the Adolescent Health Highlights series in 2012 to review research about adolescent health, including trends, and to highlight promising approaches for improving adolescent health.



Subscribe to Trend Lines, Child Trends' blog,

 and read our latest post,  

 Guns or Children?   




| DataBank  |  Resources  |  What Works  |  Employment Opportunities |  


Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter