Prevalence and Correlates of Unmet Mental Health Services Need in Adolescents With Major Depressive Episode in 2019: An Analysis of National Survey on Drug Use and Health Data



      Mental health (MH) crises in adolescence can derail development, possibly leading to poorer health outcomes in young adulthood. According to recent estimates, approximately half of US children have unmet MH need, with increased odds when uninsured or Hispanic. The aims of this study were to update estimates of MH services need and use in the US adolescent (12– 17 years) and to reassess previously identified associations between insurance status, demographic characteristics, MH need and use, and unmet need, using data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH; 2019).


      Adolescents aged 12–17 years were included from the NSDUH. Logistic regressions were performed to assess associations of race and insurance with outcomes of past-year major depressive episode (MDE) and unmet MH need. Adjustments were made for age, sex, and income.


      Individuals of multiple races, females, and users of alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drugs had increased odds of MDE, while Black adolescents and the privately insured had decreased odds. Hispanic adolescents, people of multiple races, and users of alcohol and illicit drug had increased odds for unmet need.


      We estimate that 15.8% of all US adolescents had an MDE and that 45.8% of these adolescents with MDE went without MH care in 2019. We found very limited support for associations of race and insurance status with past-year MDE or unmet MH need, although this may be due to the small number of uninsured adolescents sampled in 2019. Longitudinal data are needed to assess severity of MH needs and appropriateness of care.


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