Half of U.S. Kids With a Mental Health Disorder Don't Get Treatment
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2019 Feb 27
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
If you're worried that your child may suffer from a mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you have plenty of company.
About one in every six American kids has at least one mental health disorder, new research shows. But the study delivered even more troubling news -- only half of those children are getting treatment.
The researchers also found startling differences in the number of kids being diagnosed and treated between states. For example, the statewide prevalence of kids with at least one diagnosed mental health disorder (including depression, anxiety and ADHD) varied from about 8 percent in Hawaii to 27 percent in Maine.
The prevalence of children with a mental health disorder who didn't get treatment varied from 30 percent in Washington, D.C., to 72 percent in North Carolina, the findings showed.
"The purpose of the study was to look at geographical differences in mental health outcomes for children and adolescents. We did not expect these findings to be this extreme," said senior study author Mark Peterson. He is an associate professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Peterson said the study wasn't designed to tease out the reasons for the differences. He suggested there could be a lot of factors at play, including policy differences, socioeconomic factors, access-to-care issues or even parents' individual decisions. "We can't assume anything," he said.
However, Peterson did note that the findings indicate "that there is a much larger problem, and the study highlights the need for better care for kids."
For the study, the researchers culled through surveys from a nationally representative group of more than 50,000 children under 18 years of age. From this data, the investigators were able to estimate that 7.7 million children in the United States have at least one mental health disorder.
Dr. Gregory Fritz, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), said the finding that 16.5 percent of children have at least one mental health condition is in line with previous research.
But he said there are probably more kids who haven't been diagnosed and who aren't getting any treatment, so the problem may even be underestimated.
Study author Peterson said that parents shouldn't feel like they don't have options. If you're concerned that your child might have a mental health condition, talk with your child's pediatrician and ask them for resources. He suggested that parents of children who have chronic health conditions might want to be more vigilant about looking for signs of mental health disorders.
The findings were published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.