Minority Adolescent Mental Health Diagnosis Differences in a National Sample

Raquel Martin, Amanda Banaag, David S. Riggs, Tracey P. Koehlmoos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Mental health disparities and differences have been identified amongst all age groups, including adolescents. However, there is a lack of research regarding adolescents within the Military Health System (MHS). The MHS is a universal health care system for military personnel and their dependents. Research has indicated that the MHS removes many of the barriers that contribute to health disparities. Additional investigations with this population would greatly contribute to our understanding of disparities and health services delivery without the barrier of access to care. Materials and Methods: This study analyzed the diagnostic trends of anxiety, depression, and impulse control disorders and differences within a national sample of adolescents of active-duty military parents. The study utilized 2006 to 2014 data in the MHS Data Repository for adolescents ages 13-18. The study identified 183,409 adolescents with at least one diagnosis. Multivariable logistic regressions were conducted to assess the differences and risks for anxiety, depression, and impulse control disorders in the identified sample. Results: When compared to White Americans, minority patients had a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with an impulse control disorder (odds ratio [OR] = 1.43; confidence interval [CI] 1.39-1.48) and a decreased likelihood of being diagnosed with a depressive disorder (OR = 0.98; CI 0.95-1.00) or anxiety disorder (OR = 0.80; CI 0.78-0.83). Further analyses examining the subgroups of minorities revealed that, when compared to White Americans, African American adolescents have a much higher likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of an impulse control disorder (OR = 1.66; CI 1.61-1.72) and a lower likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of a depressive disorder (OR = 0.93; CI 0.90-0.96) and an anxiety disorder (OR = 0.75; CI 0.72-0.77). Conclusion: This study provides strong support for the existence of race-based differences in adolescent mental health diagnoses. Adolescents of military families are a special population with unique experiences and stressors and would benefit from future research focusing on qualitative investigations into additional factors mental health clinicians consider when making diagnoses, as well as further exploration into understanding how best to address this special population's mental health needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E969-E977
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


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