Background Having atopic dermatitis (AD) as well as other chronic diseases is often associated with reduced mental health. Adolescents with AD are thought to be especially vulnerable, but few studies have included an ample number of young people.
Objectives To study self-reported mental distress among boys and girls 13–19 years of age with AD compared with mental distress among healthy adolescents as well as mental distress among adolescents with other chronic diseases or complaints, such as headache, neck or shoulder pain, asthma, allergy and rhinitis.
Methods The Young-HUNT study was conducted as a cross-sectional, population-based survey in 1995–97. All students in Nord-Trondelag County, Norway, aged 13–19 years were invited, and some 89% participated. A questionnaire on mental and somatic health, life-style and social conditions was completed during one school hour.
Results A total of 4384 girls and 4433 boys participated. The prevalence of mental distress was higher among older teenagers, and more than every fourth girl aged 17–19 reported mental distress. Although more girls than boys reported mental distress, AD, headache and neck or shoulder pain, the odds for reporting both AD and mental distress were higher for boys [odds ratio (OR) = 2·1 (1·6–2·9)] compared with girls [OR = 1·3 (1·1–1·6)]. A corresponding sex difference in reporting mental distress was also seen for some other chronic diseases or complaints.
Conclusions In adolescents aged 13–19 years there was a strong and significant association between self-reported mental distress and AD as well as headache and neck or shoulder pain for both sexes. Although boys reported fewer complaints as AD, they perceived the complaints a heavier burden than did the girls.