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May 7, 2014

Mental Disorders in ChildhoodShifting the Focus From Behavioral Symptoms to Neurodevelopmental Trajectories

Author Affiliations
  • 1National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA. 2014;311(17):1727-1728. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.1193

The recent Global Burden of Disease Study reported on morbidity and mortality for 291 disorders and injuries across 187 countries.1 Expressed as “years lost to disability,” mental and substance abuse disorders accounted for nearly 23% of global morbidity, more than any other group of disorders.2 Although it may seem surprising that mental and substance abuse disorders would, by this measure, be more disabling than heart disease or cancer, at least part of the explanation is that mental and substance abuse disorders are more likely to arise early in life. In an earlier US population-based epidemiological study, 50% of adults with a mental disorder reported onset by 14 years or younger, 75% by 25 years or younger.3 In terms of burden of illness, mental and substance abuse disorders are, in fact, the predominant noncommunicable disorders of young people.

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