Action needed to improve poor health and disadvantage in the youth justice system

January 16, 2020

Children and adolescents detained in the youth justice system experience poor health across a range of physical and mental health domains, according to new research.

In the first global review, researchers from the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and University of Sheffield in the UK have examined the health of detained adolescents from 245 peer-reviewed journal articles and review publications.

Researchers found that detained adolescents have a significantly higher prevalence of mental health disorders and suicidal behaviours than their peers in the community, along with substance use disorders, neurodevelopment disabilities, and sexually transmitted infections.

In a concurrent paper also published today, researchers examined the ways poor health and poverty drive children into youth justice systems.

Researchers found that learning disabilities, poor mental health, and experiences of trauma and adversity in childhood can increase the risk that a young person will be exposed to the criminal justice system. This risk is further amplified by societal factors including inequality and disadvantage.

University of Sheffield Professor of Adolescent Health and Justice, Nathan Hughes said the research highlights the need for a whole-of-system approach to addressing health and social inequalities in childhood and adolescence.

"Research shows that it is our most disadvantaged and unwell young people who end up in the youth justice system," Professor Hughes said.

"Their health and welfare needs are complex, and many detained adolescents have multiple, co-occurring health issues that are compounded by communication difficulties, risky substance use and trauma."

Head of the Justice Health Unit at the University of Melbourne and MCRI, Professor Stuart Kinner said that to reduce the rates of reoffending and improve health outcomes for vulnerable adolescents and the community, appropriate evidence-based treatment during and after detention must also be provided.

"Investment in coordinated health, education, family, and welfare services for our most disadvantaged young people must be a priority, both to keep them out of the youth justice system, and to ensure that their health and social needs are met if they do end up in detention," Professor Kinner said.

"We need to recognise that these vulnerable young people typically spend only a short time in detention, before returning to the disadvantaged communities from which they have come.

"If we can screen for health and developmental difficulties while adolescents are in the justice system, we can identify unmet needs - often for the first time - and tailor evidence-based support to improve health outcomes and reduce reoffending once they return to the community. However, to make these improvements a reality we need greater investment in transitional programs and public health services."
-end-
This research was published today in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health and The Lancet Public Health.

Media enquiries: Holly Watkins | 0466 514 367 | holly.watkins@unimelb.edu.au

Note: Due to limited literature available, 90 per cent of peer-reviewed papers and 100 per cent of reviews came from high-income countries. Researchers state that more robust, independent research examining the health of detained children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries is urgently needed. Professor Kinner chairs the National Youth Justice Health Advisory Group in Australia.

University of Melbourne

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.