A focus on adolescence to reduce neurological, mental health and substance-use disability

Nature. 2015 Nov 19;527(7578):S161-6. doi: 10.1038/nature16030.


Globally, there is a crucial need to prioritize research directed at reducing neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders in adolescence, which is a pivotal age for the development of self-control and regulation. In adolescence, behaviour optimally advances towards adaptive long-term goals and suppresses conflicting maladaptive short-lived urges to balance impulsivity, exploration and defiance, while establishing effective societal participation. When self-control fails to develop, violence, injury and neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders can result, further challenging the development of self-regulation and impeding the transition to a productive adulthood. Adolescent outcomes, positive and negative, arise from both a life-course perspective and within a socioecological framework. Little is known about the emergence of self-control and regulation in adolescents in low- and middle-income countries where enormous environmental threats are more common (for example, poverty, war, local conflicts, sex trafficking and slavery, early marriage and/or pregnancy, and the absence of adequate access to education) than in high-income countries and can threaten optimal neurodevelopment. Research must develop or adapt appropriate assessments of adolescent ability and disability, social inclusion and exclusion, normative development, and neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders. Socioecological challenges in low- and middle-income countries require innovative strategies to prevent mental health, neurological and substance-use disorders and develop effective interventions for adolescents at risk, especially those already living with these disorders and the consequent disability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Exposure to Violence / prevention & control
  • Exposure to Violence / psychology
  • Exposure to Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence / prevention & control
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology
  • Intimate Partner Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / epidemiology
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / prevention & control
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / psychology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychological Trauma / epidemiology
  • Psychological Trauma / prevention & control
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • War Exposure / adverse effects
  • War Exposure / prevention & control
  • War Exposure / statistics & numerical data