Nearly 15 percent of children in the United States were recently treated for mental health disorders in 2021, according to new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The finding, released Tuesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, suggests that mental health disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or anxiety are common among school-age children.
For the research, statisticians analyzed data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey to find the percentage of children who received mental health care in the past year. The majority of treatments were among adolescents aged 12 to 17, according to the report, and boys were more likely than girls to have taken prescription drugs for their mental health.
Data showed that in 2021, 14.9% of children aged 5-17 had received treatment for their mental health, including 8.2% who had taken medication and 11.5% that she had received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional.
When the data was broken down by age, the researchers found that 18.9 percent of children aged 12 to 17 were treated for mental health problems, compared with 11.3 percent of children aged 12 to 17. 5 and 11 years old.
And while about 9% of boys versus 7.3% of girls were reported to have taken medication for their mental health, the researchers found no significant difference in the percentage who had received counseling or therapy: 11% of boys and 12.1% of girls.
When the data was analyzed by race, the researchers found that 18.3% of white children received mental health treatment, compared with 12.5% of black children, 10.3% of Hispanic children, and 10.3% of Hispanic children. 4.4% of Asian children.
White children remained the most likely to receive mental health care, while Asian children were the least likely, wrote researchers Benjamin Zablotsky and Amanda Ng in their study.
When they analyzed the data by region, the researchers found that in 2021, the proportion of children who had received mental health care in the past 12 months was highest in more rural locations.
The data showed that 19.1% of children in non-metro areas had received mental health treatment, compared with 14% in large metro areas and 14.9% in medium or small metro areas.
The proportion of children who had taken medication for their mental health continued to increase as urbanization decreased, while the proportion of children who had received counseling or therapy did not differ by level of urbanization, the researchers wrote.
Overall, the new report matches what we see in practice: the prevalence of mental health conditions increases as children get older, so we would expect older children and adolescents to be more likely to receive treatment, medication or counseling for mental health, Dr. Rebecca Baum, a professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in an email.
There is also concern that many children with mental disorders, such as anxiety, are still not getting the care they need.
There are many barriers to children and adolescents getting the mental health care they need. One significant barrier is the size of our pediatric mental health workforce, not just the general mental health workforce but more specialized mental health services as well, wrote Baum, who was not involved in the new research. .
Another barrier to children and young people receiving services is the stigma surrounding mental health problems and also the way different cultures and communities think about mental health, she wrote. For example, these findings might prompt us to ask whether perhaps Asian, Black, or Hispanic families might be less likely to seek mental health care than white families. However, we also need to recognize the inequalities faced by children and young people of color when attempting to access mental health services and in receiving ongoing care, which may also help explain these findings.
A separate study, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, found that the percentage of outpatient visits for US children that result in an anxiety disorder diagnosis increased significantly from 2006 to 2018. However, the percentage of visits with any medication decreased and there was no significant change in overall medication use, suggesting that while there were more children and adolescents experiencing anxiety, fewer were receiving treatment.
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