young drivers and anxiety and depression

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A new Australian study has discovered that youngsters who take risks when driving are more likely to be suffering from anxiety and depression.

The study was led by Birdie Scott-Parker and colleagues at Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

Over 760 young drivers who were still driving on a provisional licence took part in the research. Mrs Scott-Parker said that anxiety and depression accounted for 8.5 percent of the risky driving reported by those taking part in the study.

“The association was greater in women than in men, with 9.5 per cent being explained by psychological distress in women compared with 6.7 per cent in men” Mrs Scott-Parker said.

“We already know that psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, has been linked to risky behaviour in adolescents including unprotected sex, smoking and high alcohol consumption.

“What this study sought to do was look at whether or not psychological distress could also be linked to risky driving behaviours in young people, such as speeding, not wearing a seat belt and using a mobile phone while at the wheel.”

According to Mrs Scott-Parker, one of the benefits of carrying out this research is that it can be used in future to identify youngsters who are more at risk of anxiety and depression and who present a greater financial risk on the road as a result of their risky driving.

“Young people presenting to medical and mental health professionals could be screened for current psychological distress particularly if they have incurred injury through risky behaviour” she said.

“These drivers could be targeted with specific road safety countermeasures and efforts made to improve their mental wellbeing by monitoring them for signs of depression and anxiety.”

Mrs Scott-Parker also said that up until now the link between risky driving and psychological distress had not been clearly identified and quantified and that “Identifying at risk individuals is vital” she said.

“Once identified, interventions could be tailored to target particular groups of at-risk drivers and also from a mental health perspective this may result in improved well-being for the adolescent young driver,” said Mrs Scott-Parker.

The study has been published in the International Journal Injury Prevention.

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