A new study has found that girls who marry before they’re 18 are more likely to suffer from mental health problems later on.
The research, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, found that women who were married as children — defined as 17 or younger by the study — were more likely to suffer from problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug addiction. The researchers, led by Dr. Yann Le Strat, discovered the connection by looking at data from more than 18,000 women from across the United States and determining how old they had been when they were first married (if they married at all) and whether or not they suffered from long or short-term psychiatric problems.
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The results don’t paint a great picture for a young marriage. Even when the data was controlled for socioeconomic differences, the study found a link between marrying very young and psychiatric problems. Astonishingly, Dr. Le Strat told the Huffington Post that the women who were married as girls had a “41% increased risk of mental disorder.” What’s more, in most cases, the wedding day took place before psychiatric disorders became an issue for these women.
As significant as this study is — and as the first of its kind, it is significant — it has only highlighted the link, as well as the need for more research. The cause of the psychiatric disorders still hasn’t been explained. Notably, the study didn’t examine why the women got married so young, so factors such as religion, teen pregnancy and pressure from family could all play a role in their mental health later on.