Teenage depression no longer on the increase

By Nuffield Foundation

The overall level of teenage mental health problems is no longer on the increase and may even be in decline, according to new research published by the Nuffield Foundation.

There was no rise in the level of emotional problems such as anxiety and depression amongst 11-15 year olds between 1999 and 2004. In the same period there was a slight decrease in the level of conduct problems such as lying and disobedience. This follows a 25 year period in which the rate of all these problems had risen dramatically (from 1974 to 1999).

The overall level of teenage mental health problems is no longer on the increase and may even be in decline, according to new research published by the Nuffield Foundation.

There was no rise in the level of emotional problems such as anxiety and depression amongst 11-15 year olds between 1999 and 2004. In the same period there was a slight decrease in the level of conduct problems such as lying and disobedience. This follows a 25 year period in which the rate of all these problems had risen dramatically (from 1974 to 1999).

The research was undertaken by Dr Stephan Collishaw from Cardiff University and Professor Barbara Maughan from the Institute of Psychiatry. The researchers analysed data on the mental health of 11-15 year olds using Office of National Statistics surveys from 1999 and 2004. The research updates an earlier Nuffield Foundation study, Time Trends in Adolescent Mental Health (2004), which identified a significant increase in teenage mental health problems and led to a Government commitment to fundamentally reform children’s mental health services.

The researchers looked at the level of emotional and conduct problems as identified by parents. The main findings are:

  • There was no change in the amount of emotional problems such as anxiety or depression between 1999 and 2004 (these problems rose by 70% in the preceding 25 years from 1974 to 1999).
  • Parent reports of conduct problems such as lying, stealing, disobedience and fighting decreased slightly between 1999 and 2004 (these problems doubled between 1974 and 1999).
  • Researchers looked at nine different measures of mental health problems in 1999 and 2004, as identified by parents, teachers and teenagers. Of these nine measures, eight had decreased or stayed the same. The exception was the level of emotional problems reported by teachers, which increased slightly.
  • Although teenage mental health problems did not increase between 1999 and 2004, the dramatic rise in these problems prior to 1999 means that today’s teenagers are still more likely to experience emotional and conduct problems than teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dr Collishaw said:

“The level of mental health problems amongst UK teenagers, which increased at an alarming rate over the 25 years from 1974 to 1999, has now reached a plateau. What is not yet clear is whether the slight decrease in levels of some problems is the start of a trend in the opposite direction.”

The research findings are published in a Nuffield Foundation briefing paper, Time Trends in Adolescent Well-being. The study is part of a series designed to examine the changes in adolescent mental health over time and the reasons for those changes. Research published earlier this year ruled out a link between the mental health of teenagers and a decline in parenting, as evidence suggests parenting may have improved since the 1970s. Other research currently underway includes changes in the way teenagers spend their time; drug and alcohol use; neighbourhood and community; stress; and school transitions.

Download Time Trends in Adolescent Well-being: Update 2009 (PDF/501 KB)

Find out more about our Changing Adolescence Programme

ENDS

For further information contact Fran Bright at the Nuffield Foundation on 020 7681 9586.

Notes to editors

1. The research was undertaken by Dr Stephan Collishaw at Cardiff University and Professor Barbara Maughan from King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, using data from two Office of National Statistics surveys from 1999 and 2004.

2. The findings from the research are published in a Nuffield Foundation briefing paper, Time trends in adolescent well-being, by Dr Ann Hagell. The briefing paper is available to download from www.nuffieldfoundation.org.

3. The research adds a new wave of data to a 2004 study by Barbara Maughan, Stephan Collishaw, Robert Goodman (who were all based at the time at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London), and Andrew Pickles (from the University of Manchester). The full results were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and are also summarised in the Nuffield Foundation briefing paper.

4. The Nuffield Foundation is a charitable trust with the aim of advancing social well-being through education and research.

Related


Explore our projects

Older-man-reads-textbook-Assembling-data-jigsaw-Greater-Manchester-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2024

Assembling the data jigsaw: powering robust population research in MSK disease

View project
Medical-professional-massages-patient-knee-Understanding-joint-replacement-surgery-decision-making-for-older-patients-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Supporting older patients to make informed decisions about knee surgery

View project
Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Female-nurse-sees-patient-in-office-Integrating-enriched-longitudinal-data-North-Staffordshire-Stoke-on-Trent-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2025

Enriched data integration for population musculoskeletal health intelligence

View project
Older-man-and-woman-walk-together-Geographical-mapping-prevalence-outcomes-MSK-conditions-Wales-Scotland-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Mapping rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease in Scotland and Wales

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and well-being: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

COVID-19 social study

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Serious-teenage-girl-gestures-as-sits-on-couch-in-school-counselor-office-Mental-health-service-provision-for-children-state-care-England-PROJ
New

Justice | 2020 - 2021

Mental health service provision for children in state care in England

View project
New

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and well-being: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

COVID-19 social study

View project
Empty-street-with-cyclist-and-pedestrian-in-distance-Law-and-compliance-during-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Justice | 2020 - 2021

Law and compliance during COVID-19

View project
Older-man-reads-textbook-Assembling-data-jigsaw-Greater-Manchester-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2024

Assembling the data jigsaw: powering robust population research in MSK disease

View project
Medical-professional-massages-patient-knee-Understanding-joint-replacement-surgery-decision-making-for-older-patients-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Supporting older patients to make informed decisions about knee surgery

View project
Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Female-nurse-sees-patient-in-office-Integrating-enriched-longitudinal-data-North-Staffordshire-Stoke-on-Trent-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2025

Enriched data integration for population musculoskeletal health intelligence

View project
Older-man-and-woman-walk-together-Geographical-mapping-prevalence-outcomes-MSK-conditions-Wales-Scotland-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Mapping rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease in Scotland and Wales

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

View project
Senior-woman-enjoys-video-call-on-smartphone-Social-cohesion-in-context-of-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and well-being: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

COVID-19 social study

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Valuing data: foundations for data policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Revaluation and reform: bringing council tax into the 21st century

View project
Maths resit students taking exam
Reported

Education | 2019 - 2020

A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Atlas of inequality: understanding the local nature of a global phenomenon

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2018

GCSE and A-level results day project

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2020

Teaching reading: an integrated programme for deaf & hearing children

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Interdisciplinary conference on evidence use in policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Overview of the major ethical issues arising from data, algorithms and AI

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Council tax support schemes’ impact on claimants & local authorities

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Pathways of incarcerated children in care

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2019

Developing a sustainable intervention for disadvantaged children

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Improving survey representation of non-resident parents

View project
Search projects

We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

Profile

COVID-19 response

Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.