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Less Than Half of Children With Mental Disorders Receive Services

Last Updated: July 21, 2021.

WEDNESDAY, July 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The overall prevalence of any childhood mental disorder is 12.7 percent, but only 44.2 percent of children with mental disorders receive any services for these conditions, according to a review published online July 19 in Evidence-Based Mental Health.

Jenny Lou Barican, from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues identified updated data on mental disorders in epidemiological studies reporting mental disorder prevalence in samples of children aged 18 years or younger from high-income countries. Data were included for 14 studies in 11 countries, published from 2003 to 2020, which had a pooled sample of 61,545 children aged 4 to 18 years; eight of the studies reported service use. Data were collected before COVID-19.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence was 12.7 percent (I2 = 99.1 percent) for any childhood mental disorder; considerable heterogeneity pertained to diagnostic measurement and study location. The most common disorders were anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiant, substance use, conduct, and depressive (5.2, 3.7, 3.3, 2.3, 1.3, and 1.3 percent, respectively). Only 44.2 percent of the children with mental disorders received any services for these conditions.

"We have depicted a high prevalence of childhood mental disorders coupled with unacceptable service shortfalls in high-income countries -- to a degree that violates children's rights," the authors write. "In essence, we have illuminated an invisible crisis in children's mental health."

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