Teen mental health: Adults don't understand

2015-02-19

Have you ever heard a teenager say you don't understand what he or she feels? It is probably true. A recent study shows that adults underestimate how feeling worried, sad or annoyed can impact a teenager’s mental health.  

It looks like there might be systematic differences in how adults and adolescents value different health states. A group of health economists and paediatricians recently published the results of an online survey in Health Economics.

They are able to show that adults put less weight on feelings that are related to impairments in mental health, like being worried, sad or annoyed. Instead, they put more weight on moderate to severe levels of pain than the adolescents did.

This confirms previous research and points to systematic differences in how adults and adolescents value otherwise identical health states.

Terry Flynn is a health economist at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics ( (CRB) and one of the researchers responsible for the study. According to him, the results highlight some age-related differences that perhaps could have some impact on how we divide resources.

"It might be that grown-ups forget what it is like to be a teenager, but there is also a policy issue here: Maybe our health care systems don't devote enough resources to teen mental health", says Terry Flynn.

The survey used a new instrument that measures preferences relating to health and quality of life, the Child Health Utility-9D (CHU9D). The instrument is designed with economic evaluations of treatments and preventive programmes for children and adolescents in mind.

Read article in Health Economics: Nothing about us without us? A comparison of adolescent and adult health-state values for the child health utility-9D using profile case best-worst scaling