Higher mental health problems in young mothers

Washington: The latest study has revealed that teen mothers have a much higher prevalence of mental health challenges than mothers aged 21 and older as well as teens who aren’t parents. The research from McMaster Children’s Hospital showed that two out of three young mothers have at least one mental health problem.

Almost 40% of young moms have more than one mental health issue, including depression, a range of anxiety disorders and hyperactivity. This is up to four times higher than in mothers aged 21 years or older and teens without children.

“Now that we understand that young mothers can struggle with problems other than just postpartum depression, our findings can be used to develop better screening processes, more effectively detect mental health problems in teenaged mothers, and direct treatment,” said Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University.

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“We hope that this sparks partnerships between healthcare, educational, and social service organisations so that we can meet the needs of this vulnerable population.,” he added.

The study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealed that identifying and treating mental health issues in young mothers is especially important as their health also affects the wellbeing of their children. The research recommends “further efforts should be directed at engaging and treating this high-risk group.”

“Young mothers can face a great deal of adversity both before and after becoming a parent, yet next-to-nothing has been known about the rates and types of significant mental health problems among these women in our community. We did this study to better understand these problems so that we can help to improve outcomes for young mothers and their families,” Dr Van Lieshout said.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Young Mothers Health Study recruited 450 mothers aged younger than 21 years old and 100 comparison mothers aged older than 20 years old at the time of their first delivery. The moms were from Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, and Brant counties. Funded by Hamilton Health Sciences, this study is the first in Canada and one of the first in the world to use diagnostic interviews to examine a range of mental health problems beyond postpartum depression.

Lead author on the research paper, Dr Ryan further mentioned that “Because Canadian teen mothers are a difficult group to study, most previous research was based on very small samples and used mailed questionnaires rather than doing direct interviews. Structured diagnostic interviews are the gold standard for this kind of research. We’re glad to have used this method to talk to hundreds of young mothers about their experiences.”

Age-matched young mothers were also compared with 15 to 17-year-old women without children from the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study who were assessed for mental disorders.

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