The anxiety levels of teens influences their behaviors at age 30, according to a study published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders. The study, which traced participants' mental health throughout adolescence, their twenties, and the beginning of their thirties, found that adolescent anxiety predicted substance abuse, alcohol dependence/abuse, and anxiety in adulthood.

Many anxiety disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Anxiety Disorder, develop throughout adolescence, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). If not treated properly during this vulnerable time, it can lead to more mental health difficulties later in life. This new information could lead to the development of better ways to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders in adolescents.

The Study

Researchers used a large community sample of 816 people. Participants were interviewed twice in their teens, once at age 24, and once at age 30. The interviews consisted of both self-reported measures of mental health, and semi-structured diagnostic interviews. For teens, researchers used the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children (K-SADS). The follow-up questionnaire was the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation (LIFE).

The results of these interviews all pointed to one conclusion: anxiety as a teen predicted problems both throughout adolescence and as an adult, including:

  • Poor work adjustment
  • Bad family relationships
  • Problems with families
  • Less overall satisfaction
  • Poor coping skills
  • Chronic stress
  • Poor total adjustment
  • Substance abuse (SUD)
  • Alcohol abuse/dependence (AUD)
  • Anxiety

“Adolescent anxiety, compared to childhood anxiety, is associated with more adverse psychosocial outcomes at age 30," researchers concluded.

What This Means for Anxious Teens

Anxiety is a problem among all ages and groups. How long anxiety affects a person varies by age, mental health, and whether or not the person seeks help for his or her anxiety. Avoiding treatment could lead to worsening anxiety or the development of another mental health concern, like depression.

This study shows the necessity for early diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. Seeking help early on could mean an easier treatment plan, the development of more effective coping skills, and an overall improvement on quality of life for not only the patient, but also the friends and family surrounding him or her. Treatment of adolescent anxiety is necessary for a happy and healthy adulthood.

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Cecilia A. Essaua, Peter M. Lewinsohn, Beatriz Olaya, John R. Seeley. Anxiety disorders in adolescents and psychosocial outcomes at age 30. Journal of Affective Disorders. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.12.033

Date of original publication:

Updated: March 08, 2017