Adolescent mental health: associations with chronic pain and life style: A study based on the Health Survey in Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, St. Olav’s Hospital, and the Young-HUNT population study
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Most mental health disorders emerge in adolescence, and about 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems. Psychiatric disorders are associated with poor lifestyle and adverse outcomes, but few studies have been able to directly compare these characteristics in adolescent psychiatric patients to adolescents in the general population. In the present study, 566 adolescent psychiatric patients who participated in the Health Survey undertaken at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CAP survey), St. Olav’s Hospital, were compared to 8173 adolescents from the population-based Young-HUNT 3 survey. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the frequency of chronic pain, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use, and having tried illicit drugs across different psychiatric disorders in the CAP survey and to compare adolescents with psychiatric disorders to adolescents from the general population. Chronic pain was reported by two-thirds of the adolescents in the CAP survey, compared to 45% in the Young-HUNT 3 survey. Pain-related disability was experienced by one in five adolescents and was not more frequent than in the general population sample. In the CAP survey the frequency of chronic pain, multisite pain and pain-related disability was highest in adolescents with mood or anxiety disorders, was more frequent in girls, and increased with increasing age. Compared with the general population, those with psychiatric disorders were less physically active, and they participated less in both individual and team sports. In the CAP survey, adolescents with mood disorders and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were the most inactive, while those with eating disorders were the most active. A higher proportion of adolescents in the CAP survey currently smoked and had tried illicit drugs, while fewer drank alcohol, than those in the Young-HUNT 3 survey. In the CAP survey, those with mood disorders had the highest frequencies of smoking and having tried illicit drugs, while drinking alcohol was most frequent among those with mood or eating disorders. Still, no difference was found in alcohol use in those with mood disorders. The results show that a large proportion of adolescents with psychiatric disorders experienced chronic pain, they were less physically active than adolescents in the general population and reported an increased frequency of risky health behaviors concerning smoking and having tried illicit drugs. All these are factors that can both influence and be influenced by mental health problems. Still, they can be modified, and more in-depth knowledge of these relationships is crucial for prevention, early detection and better treatment of mental health problems in adolescence.