Distress and disability in young adults presenting to clinical services with mood disorders

Elizabeth M. Scott, Daniel F. Hermens, Sharon L Naismith, Adam J. Guastella, Django White, Bradley G Whitwell, Jim Lagopoulos, Jan Scott, Ian B. Hickie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Distress and/or dysfunction are well established as key reasons for help-seeking. We explore the characteristics of groups defined by high or low distress or disability in young people with unipolar depression (UP) or bipolar disorder (BD).

METHODS: Individuals aged 12 to 25 years presenting to youth mental health services for the first time with a primary diagnosis of UP or BD were assessed using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (Kessler-10) and the Work and Social Adjustment Scale (WSAS). Four groups with high or low distress or impairment were defined (according to scores above or below the group medians for the Kessler-10 and WSAS). Multinomial logistic regression (MNLR) was used to examine how cases with high levels of distress and disability (reference group) differed from the other three groups.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The sample comprised 1,746 cases (90% UP, 56% female) with a median age of 17.5 years. Median scores on the Kessler-10 and WSAS were both high (30 and 20, respectively) and were significantly inter-correlated (r = 0.62); the high impairment/distress group was the largest sub-group (39% of cases). The MNLR analysis demonstrated that younger age was associated with lower impairment groups (irrespective of distress level), whilst male gender was associated with lower distress (irrespective of impairment). Compared to the low impairment/distress cases, the high impairment/distress group was significantly more likely to use cannabis and/or alcohol. Age, substance use and possibly gender are probably better predictors of distress/impairment sub-group than mood disorder sub-type in youth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational journal of bipolar disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • bipolar
  • unipolar
  • youth
  • alcohol and substance misuse
  • co-morbidity


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