The relationship between outpatient mental health treatment and subsequent mental health symptoms and disorders in young adults

Adm Policy Ment Health. 2010 Nov;37(6):484-96. doi: 10.1007/s10488-010-0291-2.


The objective of this study was to evaluate community-based outpatient mental health services for young adults. Participants were interviewed at ages 21, 24, 27, and 30. Outcomes included: (1) symptoms of depression, generalized anxiety, social phobia, dysthymia and post traumatic stress individually and as a global scale; and (2) a dichotomous diagnosis variable inclusive of all above disorders. Treatment was indicated by an outpatient visit to a psychiatrist or other professional. Treatment did not reduce mental disorder or symptoms. Substance use, violence, poverty, community disorganization, and family history of antisocial behavior increased risks for negative outcomes, while social support was protective. The absence of positive findings associated with outpatient treatment is troubling given the empirically supported interventions for the conditions examined. Practitioners, agencies, and managed care organizations share a responsibility to implement effective and comprehensive interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Community Mental Health Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult