An Epidemiological Study on Risk Factors for the Development of Serious Mental Illness In At-Risk Youth

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Usually, mental illnesses begin in adolescence and early adulthood, and for many, persist over time. Consequently, mental illnesses lead to significant personal and societal burden. In response, there has been increasing effort in early intervention strategies that may help with delaying or stopping the progression of a mental illness to a more serious state. Aside from finding early intervention strategies best suited for young people, it is imperative to understand the psychosocial, biological and environmental factors that may lead to the development of a mental illness. Research on these early factors in youth mental illness development is limited. The aim of this study was to determine which clinical factors might be related to the development of a serious mental illness (SMI) in at-risk youth. A total of 162 participants aged 12-26 years and at various stages of risk for SMI were included in the study. Out of these participants, 31 developed a SMI. Comparisons were made on a range of baseline clinical and functional measures between two groups; those that made a transition to a SMI (n=31) and those that did not (n=131). A cox regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between measures and SMI development. Female sex, attenuated psychotic symptoms as assessed with the Scale of Psychosis-risk Symptoms (SOPS), and higher ratings on the K-10 Distress Scale were found to be significantly related to later transition to a SMI. Female participants were 2.77 times more likely to transition to SMI compared to the males. There was a 14% increased risk of transition with each one-point increase in the SOPS, and a 7% increase with a one-point increase in the K-10 scale. Results from this longitudinal study may help improve understanding of illness trajectory and aid with early detection in mental illnesses.
Youth mental health, Transition to serious mental illness, Clinical staging
Jalali, S. (2023). An epidemiological study on risk factors for the development of serious mental illness in at-risk youth (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from