Mental health challenges higher in young mothers: Study


Toronto: Researchers have found that two out of three young mothers have at least one mental health issue.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that teen mothers have a much higher prevalence of mental health challenges than mothers aged 21 and older and teens who aren’t parents.

Almost 40 per cent 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, the researchers said,

“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 study researcher Ryan Van Lieshout from McMaster University in Canada.

For the findings, 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.

This study is the one of the first in the world to use diagnostic interviews to examine a range of mental health problems beyond postpartum depression.

“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,” said study lead author Van Lieshout.

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, the researchers said.

The study said identifying and treating mental health issues in young mothers is especially important as their health also affects the wellbeing of their children.

“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,” Lieshout said.