Congratulations to the Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Professor Susan Sawyer, who has just published Australia’s first textbook on ‘Youth Health and Adolescent Medicine’, edited with colleagues Dr Melissa Kang, Associate Professor Rachel Skinner, Associate Professor Lena Sanci.
“The editors are excited that this field has come of age in Australia to the extent that a textbook is both needed and can be born of the enormous breadth and depth of expertise that resides among our colleagues”, she said.
The book is in 4 parts:
- Adolescents and young people
- Clinical approaches and youth friendly care
- Common and important health issues in adolescence
- Complex, challenging and ill-defined disorders in adolescence.
Three of the 4 editors are based at the Centre (Professor Sawyer) or trained at the Centre for Adolescent Health (Rachel Skinner and Lena Sanci). Many current and past Centre staff and students contributed chapters, including John Toumbourou, Craig Olsson, Ian Williams, Bill Hallam, Sonia Grover, Michele Yeo, Yvonne Bonomo, Mick Creati, Kathy Rowe, Andrew Court and Andrew Kennedy.
While spanning both population health and clinical perspectives, it will be most relevant for practicing clinicians, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, allied health professionals and students form a wide range of disciplines.
The book can be ordered from IP communications and costs $80.
Congratulations to Carolyn Coffey on the completion of her PhD.
One of the major health risks for young people to emerge in recent decades relates to illicit drug use with cannabis being the most commonly used in Australia. Yet there has been remarkably little work undertaken into quantifying the health risk associated with cannabis. This thesis is a narrative based on twelve papers published in international peer reviewed journals arising from the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, which have contributed to our understanding of the natural history of adolescent cannabis use and the adverse consequences that may arise from its use in adolescence and young adulthood. Dr Coffey was intimately involved with this ongoing population-based cohort study which commenced in 1992 with 2000 fourteen-year-olds who were interviewed periodically until they were aged 29 years in 2010. This unique data set allowed her to track the transitions in behaviour through adolescence into adulthood and the longer term impact of cannabis use measured. The overall conclusion must be that cannabis use in adolescence is not harmless and, for some, has quite grave consequences in adulthood. The findings have already done much to shift community attitudes and policy responses.
My PhD thesis examined the effect of peer influence on the development of adolescent alcohol use. Peer influence is one of the most salient and consistent predictors for drinking behaviour among young people. It is important to understand the relative contribution of the processes of peer influence (whereby adolescents transition to alcohol use in the presence of alcohol-using peers) and peer selection (whereby those using alcohol initially in the absence of alcohol-using friends then subsequently seek out drinking peers) so that appropriate prevention strategies can be applied at different stages in adolescence. Using cross-national, prospective data from state-representative samples of students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA from the International Youth DevelopmentStudy, I used Latent Transition Analysis to identify a range of transition groups with adolescents moving in and out of their latent peer classes over time and explored predictors associated with these transitions. The findings provide the firmest estimates to date of the prevalence of peer influenced alcohol use transitions and demonstrate age and country variations.
Merel and Nadia, two child psychology students from the Netherlands spent eight weeks doing a student placement within two of our research projects. They were at the Centre for Adolescent Health to write their bachelor’s thesis.
They told us “It was a great experience being here. It was a pleasure to see how the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital research teams operate. All the co-workers are interested in each other’s project. It was a wonderful experience being here and to meet all the nice staff! We learned a lot about what research is and it was great to see how the staff worked together and were very helpful to each other. We loved our internship at the Centre for Adolescent Health and to see the brand new hospital with all the child friendly facilities. It is amazing that everything is just there in one hospital. We had a great time!”
The CATS study is a new and unique longitudinal study of children in metropolitan Melbourne as they approach adolescence. The study began in 2012 and is following over 1200 children from grade 3 (8-9 years of age). It will cover the experiences of children and their families, their changing social context as they move into secondary school, and the biological changes of puberty. Findings from this study will be used to determine which children are most at risk as they pass through puberty and the middle years of school, and to see if certain modifiable factors may be a target for preventative interventions.
Find out more information on our website: http://www.mcri.edu.au/cats
Check out our new video to learn more about CATS! http://www.mcri.edu.au/truthaboutcats/]
You can also keep up to date through our facebook page: www.facebook.com/cats.study.9
This paper reports on research from the Longitudinal Study of Australian children, in which parents of children were interviewed over time, and asked questions on puberty, behaviour, emotional, social and school functioning.
Lead researcher, Dr Fiona Mensah, says the study provides new evidence of pre-existing and persistent early childhood differences in socio-emotional well being amongst children who experience early puberty.
“There is a heightened risk for behaviour and emotional problems during puberty; and children who reach puberty earlier than their peers have more of these difficulties in adolescence.”
Professor George Patton says the study supports a ‘life course’ hypothesis.
“Understanding what lies behind early puberty may also tell us much about the origins of emotional and behavioural problems of children and adolescents.”
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
George Patton was interviewed by the ABC. To listen to the interview click here.
Fiona and George write Conversation piece
There has been a good deal of interest in a question about whether very early adolescent heavy cannabis use may cause ongoing problems even when someone stops cannabis use. The early teens are a time of rapid brain development involving those parts involved in emotional control. Studies in rats have suggested large doses of cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) may alter longer terms patterns of anxiety. Other studies in humans have raised a question about early cannabis users have reduced intelligence later in adulthood. We found that in our study of two thousand young Victorians a two-fold higher rate of anxiety problems in the later twenties even where an individual was no longer using cannabis. We could not account for it by other aspects of an individual’s lifestyle or their earlier history of mental health problems. It is consistent with a view that heavy (at least weekly) early teen cannabis use does increase the risks for later anxiety problems.
Degenhardt L, Coffey C, Romaniuk H, Swift W, Carlin JB, Hall WD, Patton GC. The persistence of the association between adolescent cannabis use and common mental disorders into young adulthood. Addiction. 2013; 108(1): 124-33.
Professor Susan Sawyer was interviewed for the Melbourne Voice by Annie Rahilly and talked about the new research being done by Professor Patton and his team at the Centre for Adolescent Health looking at the health of future generations.
The full article in the Voice can be found here.
Sylvia Kauer investigated the efficacy of a self-monitoring mobile application on depressive symptoms in adolescents. Using structural equation modelling she found mobile phones increased emotional self-awareness which then decreased depressive symptoms. Her research suggests that self-monitoring applications should be considered for young people at risk of mental health problems. Sylvia greatly appreciates the support of Australian Rotary Health which funded her PhD through the Ian Scott Scholarship. Sylvia is now a PostDoc Research Fellow at the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne on the LINK project, developing and evaluating a e-portal to facilitate help-seeking in young people.