The following is a summary of “Prevalence and Correlates of Unmet Mental Health Services Need in Adolescents With Major Depressive Episodes in 2019: An Analysis of National Survey on Drug Use and Health Data,” published in the February 2023 issue of the Adolescent Health by Fox et al.
Adolescent mental health (MH) crises can halt growth, potentially resulting in worse health as a young adult. Recent studies suggest that roughly half of US children have unmet MH needs and that this likelihood is magnified for uninsured children of Hispanic descent. This study used information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH; 2019) to do two things: update estimates of MH services needed and used in the US adolescent population (12-17 years old) and reevaluate associations between insurance status, demographic characteristics, MH needs and use, and unmet needs.
Participants were 12-17-year-olds drawn from the NSDUH. Associations between race and insurance coverage for mental health care, as measured by major depressive episodes (MDE) in the past year and unmet MH needs, were analyzed using logistic regressions. Age, gender, and income disparities were factored in. The risk of a major depression episode (MDE) was higher among multiracial, female, or alcoholic/marijuana/illegal drug users and lower among black adolescents and the privately insured. Adolescents of Hispanic descent, people of mixed race, and alcoholics and drug addicts all had higher rates of unmet needs.
In 2019, researchers predicted that 15.8% of all US adolescents experienced an MDE and that 45.8% of those with an MDE did not receive mental health care. Despite the small number of uninsured adolescents in the 2019 sample, investigators found little support for associations between race, insurance status, and MDE, or unmet MH needs, in the past year. Data collected over time is essential for determining the scope of mental health problems and the most effective treatment options.