Mental and substance use disorders from early adolescence to young adulthood among indigenous young people: Final diagnostic results from an 8-year panel study

Leslie B Whitbeck, Kelley J. Sittner Hartshorn, Devan M. Crawford, Melissa L. Walls, Kari C. Gentzler, Danny R Hoyt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Objective: Our objective was to investigate change in prevalence rates for mental and substance abuse disorders between early adolescence and young adulthood in a cohort of indigenous adolescents who participated in an 8-year panel study. Method: The data are from a lagged, sequential study of 671 indigenous adolescents (Wave 1) from a single culture in the Northern Midwest USA and Canada. At Wave 1 (mean age 11.3 years, Wave 4 (mean age 14.3 years), Wave 6 (mean age 16.2 years), and at Wave 8 (mean age 18.3 years) the tribally enrolled adolescents completed a computer-assisted personal interview that included DISC-R assessment for 11 diagnoses. Our yearly retention rates by diagnostic wave were: Wave 2, 94.7 %; Wave 4, 87.7 %; Wave 6, 88.0 %; Wave 8, 78.5 %. Results: The findings show a dramatic increase in lifetime prevalence rates for substance use disorders. By young adulthood, over half had met criteria of substance abuse or dependence disorder. Also at young adulthood, 58.2 % had met lifetime criteria of a single substance use or mental disorder and 37.2 % for two or more substance use or mental disorders. The results are compared to other indigenous diagnostic studies and to the general population. Conclusions: A mental health crisis exists within the indigenous populations that participated in this study. Innovations within current mental health service systems are needed to address the unmet demand of adolescents and families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-973
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014



  • American Indian
  • Indigenous adolescents
  • Mental health
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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