Untangling the links between physical and mental Illness in youth
Multimorbidity (the co-occurrence of physical and mental illness) affects approximately 10 percent of children and youth. Because physical and mental illnesses are chronicin nature, the multifaceted consequences of multimorbidity extend throughoutlife. Despite evidence that physical illness increases risk for mental illness,the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not well understood.
Dr.Mark Ferro, Canada Research Chair in Youth Mental Health, is investigating therole of biological and psychosocial factors in the development of multimorbidityamong youth and how this experience influences their need for psychiatricservices. He uses data from large, long-term studies of Canadian youthconducted by Statistics Canada, as well as clinical studies of youth recruitedfrom children’s hospitals and followed over time.
Ferrohas already found that the risk for mental illness is remarkably consistentacross youth with different physical illnesses, and that trajectories ofdepression from childhood to young adulthood are worse for those with aphysical illness compared to those without.
Aswell, he has shown that the diagnosis of a physical illness in childhoodnegatively impacts parental mental health and the family environment, which inturn results in compromised self-esteem and increased anxiety and depressionamong the children themselves.
Ferro aims to understand how biological andpsychosocial processes are interrelated in the development of youthmultimorbidity and subsequently, how multimorbidity influences access and useof psychiatric services. His work will help identify at-risk youth and informtargeted intervention and broad risk-reduction strategies to prevent and reducethe incidence of multimorbidity early in life.