A systematic narrative review of the literature: adherence to pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments among adolescents with mental disorders



Aims and objectives

To review current research into the adherence to mental health treatment by adolescents.


Nonadherence to medication among adolescents has been studied much more extensively than nonadherence to other forms of treatment. Monitoring adherence to all recommended services is essential when assessing the long-term effectiveness of different treatment programmes. Healthcare professionals who treat patients with mental illness must be able to accurately determine which of their patients are adhering to all prescribed treatments.


This is a systematic narrative literature review of the current literature.


Using a narrative synthesis, the data from 15 relevant articles concerning adolescents in inpatient or outpatient mental health care were extracted and synthesised.


The reviewed papers are discussed in terms of the methods used to study treatment adherence, the working definition of adherence used in each case and the results obtained concerning adherence in adolescents. Thirty-four to sixty-seven per cent of adolescents treated are fully adherent to their medication and exhibit reasonably good follow-through for the recommended treatments. However, rates of noncompliance with medication are quite high, and significant numbers of adolescents choose to discontinue their medication.


This review synthesises current published data on adherence to mental health treatment among adolescents in order to provide practitioners and researchers with a better understanding of this important area. It is recommended that future investigations should focus on adherence in inpatient care, adherence to nonpharmacological treatments and the identification of factors that influence adherence.

Relevance to clinical practice

The monitoring and understanding of adherence to recommended services is important. Therefore, these findings can be used by healthcare professionals who treat patients with mental illness to help them assess which of their patients are adhering to the prescribed treatments.