SATURDAY, July 13, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Physical and sexual abuse is the reason many Midwest teenagers run away from home, according to the findings of an ongoing survey in eight Midwestern cities by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The three-year survey of 455 runaway teens says those teens are more likely than "normal" teens to have mental disorders such as severe depression, substance abuse, conduct disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For example, the survey says 74 percent of the male runaways and 57 percent of the female runaways suffer from conduct disorder, compared to about 15 percent of teenagers in the general population. Twenty-three percent of the male runaways and 43 percent of the female runaways have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

That's shocking, says Kurt Johnson, a research sociologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is part of the Midwest Longitudinal Study on Homeless Adolescents.

"These people were involved or connected with gut-wrenching experiences, including sexual abuse and physical abuse," Johnson says.

He collects data from eight survey outreach workers who interview teens they find at shelters, bus stations, malls and on the streets.

The survey is in its second year and these are the first findings to be released.

"Society should worry about what we're doing to these kids by letting them live on the street, and should ask some hard questions about why we're not helping them as much as we should be," Johnson says.

More Information

The National Runaway Switchboard offers help for teens thinking of running away, or for parents trying to deal with a problem or runaway child.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on July 13, 2002

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