Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

'Fifth of adolescents' hear voices

Hearing voices can affect up to a fifth of young adolescents, according to a new psychiatric study

Hearing voices can affect more than a fifth of young adolescents, a psychiatry study has found.

Researchers discovered auditory hallucination has an impact on 21% to 23% of children aged between 11 and 13 in Ireland.

More than half of those who heard voices - 57% - were also found to have a psychiatric disorder following clinical assessment.

Nearly 2,500 children, aged between 11 and 16, were assessed four times for the study, funded by the Health Research Board (HRB).

Lead researcher Dr Ian Kelleher revealed auditory hallucinations can vary from hearing an isolated sentence now and then to hearing conversations between two or more people lasting for several minutes.

"It may present like screaming or shouting and other times it could sound like whispers or murmurs," said Dr Kelleher, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). "It varies greatly from child to child, and frequency can be once a month to once every day."

The study showed auditory hallucinations stop for many children as they get older, with 7% of older adolescents (aged 13-16) hearing voices. However nearly 80% of the teens who continued to hear voices also had a psychiatric disorder, linking auditory hallucinations and serious mental illness.

The research has been published online by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Professor Mary Cannon said it suggests hearing voices seems to be more common in children than was previously thought."In most cases these experiences resolve with time," the HRB clinician scientist at the RCSI and Beaumont Hospital said. "However, in some children these experiences persist into older adolescence and this seems to be an indicator that they may have a complex mental health issue and require more in-depth assessment."

Dr Kelleher said hearing voices could be a "blip" on the radar that does not turn out to signify any underlying or undiagnosed problem.