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Home > The health of adolescents in detention: a global scoping review.

Borschmann, Rohan and Janca, Emilia and Carter, Annie and Willoughby, Melissa and Hughes, Nathan and Snow, Kathryn and Stockings, Emily and Hill, Nicole T M and Hocking, Jane and Love, Alexander and Patton, George C and Sawyer, Susan M and Fazel, Seena and Puljević, Cheneal and Robinson, Jo and Kinner, Stuart A (2020) The health of adolescents in detention: a global scoping review. The Lancet Public Health , 5 , (2) , e114-e126. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30217-8.


Adolescents detained within the criminal justice system are affected by complex health problems, health-risk behaviours, and high rates of premature death. We did a global synthesis of the evidence regarding the health of this population.

A high lifetime prevalence of health problems, risks, and conditions was reported in detained adolescents, including mental disorders (0-95%), substance use disorders (22-96%), self-harm (12-65%), neurodevelopmental disabilities (2-47%), infectious diseases (0-34%), and sexual and reproductive conditions (pregnant by age 19 years 20-37%; abnormal cervical screening test result 16%). Various physical and mental health problems and health-risk behaviours are more common among adolescents in detention than among their peers who have not been detained. As the social and structural drivers of poor health overlap somewhat with factors associated with exposure to the criminal justice system, strategies to address these factors could help to reduce both rates of adolescent detention and adolescent health inequalities. Improving the detection of mental and physical disorders, providing appropriate interventions during detention, and optimising transitional health care after release from detention could improve the health outcomes of these vulnerable young people.

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