LONDON, ONT -- A new study is shedding light on the challenges faced by pregnant teens despite falling rates of teenage pregnancy.

The study conducted at the Lawson Health Research Institute along with Brescia University College in London, Ont. found that teenagers who are pregnant are more likely to live in poverty, have poorer mental health and have higher rates of substance use.

“Unfortunately, declining rates of teenage pregnancy means that the issue has received minimal attention in recent years with respect to social policy,” said Dr. Jamie Seabrook, who works with both Lawson and Brescia, in a release.

The study, which can be read here, focuses on a large sample of pregnancies from across southwestern Ontario.

Researchers looked at data from more than 25,000 patients at the London Heath Sciences Centre. Of those pregnancies 1,080 were patients who were 19 years old or younger.

The study found that pregnant teens were more likely to live in poorer neighbourhoods and have a history of depression.

When it comes to substances use during pregnancy, 41 per cent of the teens studied smoked cigarettes, 13 per cent used cannabis and seven per cent drank.

These numbers are significantly higher than in older pregnant women, according to the study.

While the numbers around mental health and substance use are concerning, researchers note that they did not find a higher risk for pre-term birth or low birth weight.

“There are so many factors associated with poor birth outcomes, and the advantage of our sample size and statistical modelling was that we were able to include key medical and behavioural factors which play a larger role than age,” said Brescia's Dr. Jasna Twynstra in a release.

The researchers are hopeful that their study will add to what they call the “limited research on teenage pregnancy,” in order to improve the health of pregnant teens and their babies.