BackgroundOne in six adolescents suffers from mental health problems. Despite the presence of general information on Italian adolescents' mental health, researches conducted with standardized assessment tools are scarce in the literature. We evaluated the prevalence of self-reported behavioral and emotional problems in a group of Italian adolescents and examined their relation to socio-demographical variables.MethodsThis population-based sampling survey was conducted on high school students aged 14-18 from urban areas of Rome and Latina. Participants completed Youth Self-Report (YSR) and a socio-demographic schedule to collect information on age, gender, type of school attended, socio-economic status, urbanicity.ResultsFinal sample consisted of 1400 adolescents (38.61% male, mean age 16 years, s.d. 1.42). Prevalence of Internalizing Problems, Externalizing Problems and Total Problems was 29.55%, 18.34% and 24.13%. In our multivariable model, Internalizing Symptoms were not explained by sociodemographic variables while Externalizing Symptoms were explained by Male Gender [OR = 1.53 (1.14-2.06)], older age [OR = 2.06 (1.52-2.79)] and attending a Technical and Professional Institute [OR = 2.15 (1.53-3.02)], with an adjusted R2 = 4.32%. Total Problems were explained by School Type [Technical and Professional Institutes and Art and Humanities v. Grammar and Science School; OR respectively 1.93 (1.40-2.67) and 1.64 (1.08-2.47)], adjusted R2 = 1.94.ConclusionsThe study provides, for the first time, evidence of a great prevalence of self-reported behavioral and emotional problems in a large sample of Italian adolescents, highlighting the role of different socio-demographic variables as risk factors for externalizing behaviors. Our results emphasize the urgent need for implementing prevention programs on mental health in adolescence.