Depressive Symptoms in Teens Are Associated With
By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health
Adolescents who witness domestic violence between
their parents are significantly more likely to suffer from
symptoms of depression. In a study of adolescents in the
Philippines conducted by Michelle Hindin, a researcher at
the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Socorro
Gultiano, of the University of San Carlos in the
Philippines, nearly half of all young people reported
witnessing parental domestic violence. One in 10 of the
male adolescents and one in five of the female adolescents
reported wishing they were dead occasionally or most of the
time in the four weeks preceding the survey.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among
adolescents worldwide, according to the World Health
Organization. Adolescent mental health issues are
relatively understudied, particularly in the developing
world, where more than 1 billion 10-to-19-year-olds live.
This study is among the first conducted in the developing
world to explore adolescent mental health and its
association with parental domestic violence. Its findings
will appear in the April edition of the American Journal
of Public Health.
"We found that young women reported the most
depressive symptoms when they recalled that a parent needed
medical attention as a result of domestic violence. Young
men reported the most symptoms when they recalled mutual
violence between their parents," said Hindin, an assistant
professor in the Bloomberg School's
Department of Population and Family Health Sciences.
For the study, Hindin and Gultiano used data from
2,051 young men and women aged 17 to 19, collected from the
2002 Cebu Longitudinal Health Nutrition Survey. In
face-to-face interviews, the young people were asked
whether they had witnessed domestic violence or experienced
any depressive symptoms during the previous month.
Depressive symptoms included headaches, poor digestion,
worry, loneliness, trouble sleeping and thoughts about
death or taking one's own life.
"Mental health and domestic violence are increasing
public health concerns. Interventions that prevent domestic
violence may also help prevent the severity of depressive
symptoms in adolescents," Hindin said.
Funding for the study, written by Hindin and Gultiano,
was provided by grants from the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development and Fogarty International.
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