No epidemiological data on prevalence rates of mental disorders based on a representative sample are available for Austrian adolescents up to now. However, the knowledge of psychiatric disorders, related risk and protective factors is of great significance for treatment and prevention. The purpose of the MHAT-Study (Mental Health in Austrian Teenagers), the first epidemiological study on mental health in Austria, is to obtain prevalence rates of mental disorders and to examine risk factors, protective factors and quality of life in a representative sample of adolescents aged 10–18. Aims of this pilot study were to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the screening instruments, pre-estimate the frequency of mental health problems and estimate possible non-responder bias.
Twenty-one schools in eastern Austria were asked to participate. Data on mental health problems were derived from self-rating questionnaires containing standardized screening measures (Youth Self-Report, measuring emotional and behavioral problems and the SCOFF, indicating eating problems. Quality of life as well as related risk and protective factors were also obtained.
Four hundred and eight adolescents of five schools were recruited. The prevalence of mental health problems was 18.9 % [CI 95 %: 14.9–22.7]. Moreover, emotional and behavioral problems were highly correlated with quality of life measures. A Non-Responder Analysis indicated that non-responders (16.7 %) differ from responders with regard of school related problems.
The results demonstrate that mental health problems affect approximately one fifth of the adolescents. A Non-Responder Analysis suggests that the prevalence of behavioral and emotional problems is underestimated.