Nearly 1 in 5 youths has a mental health condition

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 27, 2013

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Between 13% and 20% of U.S. children younger than 18 experience a mental health disorder in a given year, and prevalence of such conditions has been increasing for more than a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The annual cost of these illnesses in youths is an estimated $247 billion in health care, special education, juvenile justice and decreased productivity, the CDC said.

The findings were published in a supplement to the May 17 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (link). This is the CDC’s first comprehensive report on children’s mental health.

Researchers found that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder was the most commonly diagnosed childhood condition (6.8%) between 1994 and 2011. Other frequently reported diagnoses during that time were behavioral or conduct problems (3.5%), anxiety (3%), depression (2.1%), autism spectrum disorders (1.1%) and Tourette syndrome (0.2% among children ages 6 to 17).

The prevalence of all the conditions increased with age except for ASD, which was most common in the age group 6-11.

Future surveillance of mental disorders among youths should include standard case definitions of mental health conditions and better documentation of the prevalence of such conditions among preschool-age children, the study said. Surveillance methods also should include additional conditions, such as specific anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder, the CDC said.

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