To investigate the association between mental distress, other factors, and subsequent use of psychotropic drugs in adolescents aged 15-16 years.
This study is based on information retrieved from the Norwegian Youth Health Surveys (2000-2003) and linked to prescription data from the Norwegian Prescription Database (2004-2009). The study population included 11,620 adolescents aged 15-16 (87% response rate) years. Self-reported mental distress (Hopkins Symptom Checklist-10 score 1.85) was recorded along with health and lifestyle habits, education plans, and family economics. Incident psychotropic drug use (outcome measure) was defined =1 prescriptions of one of the following psychotropic drugs: anxiolytics, hypnotics, antidepressants, or phenothiazines registered in the Norwegian Prescription Database.
Overall, 15.5% of the adolescents reported mental distress, 75% of them were girls. For both genders, incident psychotropic use was significantly higher among those reporting mental distresses at baseline, compared with the rest of the participants. The highest psychotropic drug use was observed among mentally distressed girls (27.7%). Mental distress was significantly associated with incident use of psychotropic drugs (odds ratio: 2.25, 95% confidence interval: 1.97-2.55). After adjustment for confounding factors and inclusion of potential mediating factors, the odds ratio attenuated to 1.59 (95% confidence interval: 1.35-1.86).
The prevalence of mental distress among adolescents may have consequences for health promotion. Public health nurses in Norway, working in health centers and schools, have a responsibility to promote health and prevent health problems. They have the opportunity and a responsibility to identify vulnerable young people.