Adolescent psychiatry:

Youth Well-being Study and REAL-SMART

Group leader

Tommi Tolmunen, MD, PhD, Professor

The goals of our research

Our group’s main focus of interest is the psychological and physical wellbeing of young people and the interaction between these two aspects. We also study the ways and reasons why young people use drugs and alcohol as well as possible interventive and preventive strategies.

Our most important partners are the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Department of Public Health and the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland and the Department of Radiology, the Department of Clinical Physiology at the Kuopio University Hospital.


We are currently utilizing two datasets:

1. The Youth Wellbeing Study

which began in 2005, contains three different parts: 

  • Baseline data (n = 4000)
  • Follow-up data (n = 800)
  • Of the follow-up participants, we selected 80 young adults who reported the highest and the lowest alcohol use (40 + 40). These participants underwent different brain-imaging tests (MRI, TMS-EEG) and provided blood samples for metabolomics analyses.

2. REAL-SMART project

began in 2017, and consists of two individual but interconnected parts:

a) The Recognition and early intervention for alcohol and substance abuse in adolescence (REAL) data collection began in 2017 and is currently ongoing. We are investigating whether it is possible to use an electronic mini-intervention to reduce drug and alcohol use among young people and to improve their wellbeing. We are also studying the effects drug and alcohol use on the metabolic profile. Our goal is to introduce an electronic version of the ASSIST questionnaire to a wider community, assuming the electronic mini-intervention will reduce or prevent youth drug use. 

b) The Systemic metabolic alterations related to different psychiatric disease categories in adolescent outpatients (SMART) project began concurrently with the REAL project. In the SMART project, we study the metabolic profiles of adolescent psychiatry patients. The research data on systemic metabolic alterations related to different psychiatric diseases in adolescents is scarce. The onset of the majority of psychiatric diseases, however, occurs in adolescence. Studying the early stages of psychiatric diseases may provide valuable information on the mechanisms of illnesses. We assume that metabolomic methods will provide the opportunity to differentiate psychiatric diagnostic profiles. Systemic metabolic profiles may help us predict the prognosis of psychiatric diseases and the efficiency of different treatments.

Would you like to work with us?

We may have positions for those interested in completing their master’s thesis or MD thesis or post-doctoral research in some of the group's focus areas. If you are interested in working with us you can contact Tommi (tommi.tolmunen (at)