Teenage risk of mental health issues the focus of new £24m investment

Updated: Aug 23


Image credit: Andrew Neel

Tackling eating disorders, improving social media, and reducing depression in teenagers with autism are among the subjects being investigated for 7 new research projects set to receive a funding boost.


All projects will receive part of a £24 million investment package from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – a government body that funds research aimed at solving pressing public issues.


The overall aim of the investment is to advance understanding of the developing mind of adolescents and why some young people are more susceptible to mental health issues than others.


Each of the 7 projects will investigate a different aspect of understanding young people’s mental health, including issues they face today that can result in significant and long-lasting effects on their wellbeing.


According to Mental Health First Aid England, 3 in 4 mental health problems emerge before the age of 18.


Recent research has also highlighted growing rates of teenage mental health issues, with cases of depression and anxiety doubling during the pandemic.


Read more: Extra funding announced to tackle rising number of eating disorders in children

The projects will be carried out by researchers across England and Scotland from the Universities of Nottingham, Oxford, Exeter, Bath, Falmouth and Edinburgh, as well as King's College London and University College London.


The aims of each project are as follows:

  • Understanding the relationship between social media and risk of mental health issues, particularly depression, self-harm, and suicide

  • Improving understanding of, and interventions for, eating disorders in adolescents

  • Investigating the link between adverse childhood experiences – such as abuse, neglect and poverty – and mental health issues during adolescence

  • Developing a model for universities to help improve mental health support for students

  • Reducing rates of depression in young people with neuroatypicalities such as attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

  • Developing preventative interventions for mental health issues in schoolchildren

  • Understanding the increased risk of mental health issues in young people who have been in care


“It is abundantly clear that more work is urgently needed to find effective ways to support the mental health of young people at a crucial stage in their lives,” said Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UKRI.


“This portfolio of interdisciplinary projects will build the evidence and understanding that we need to combat debilitating mental illness in young people and allow them to fulfill their potential.”


To read more about the projects included in the UKRI investment programme, click here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health