Sharp Rise Seen in Kids' ER Visits for Mental Health Woes
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2018 Nov 12
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Mental health issues are sending more and more kids and teens to hospital emergency rooms, and that increase has been most dramatic among minorities, a new report shows.
Between 2012 and 2016, overall admissions shot up 50 percent in the United States, the researchers said.
"Prior to our study, we knew that an increasing number of children with mental health concerns were coming to the nation's pediatric emergency departments," said study author Dr. Anna Abrams. She is a resident physician with the Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C.
"What this new research demonstrates is that not only are these visits increasing at a staggering rate, but that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in the trends of who visits pediatric emergency departments for mental health issues," Abrams said.
Why this is so remains unclear, she noted.
"Our study really was an effort to characterize the frequency of these emergency department visits," Abrams explained. "It was not designed to investigate the potential reasons that triggered these visits. We do plan to investigate this question in future work."
Abrams and her colleagues plan to present their findings Friday at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, in Orlando, Fla. The research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The study team said that more than 17 million American children struggle with some form of psychiatric illness. In recent years, that has meant that somewhere between 2 percent to 5 percent of all pediatric visits to the emergency department have been related to mental illness concerns.
The team focused on the overall number of mental health-related visits to an emergency department among children up to the age of 21.
The mental health issues covered by the analysis included: acute anxiety and delirium states; adjustment disorders and neuroses; alcohol abuse; drug abuse (including opioid abuse); bipolar disorders; childhood behavioral disorders; depression; major depressive disorders; disorders of personality and impulse control; eating disorders; psychosis; and schizophrenia.
During the study period, investigators determined that more than 293,000 children -- who were an average age of just over 13 -- had been diagnosed for some type of mental illness in a pediatric emergency room setting.
Overall, these visits rose dramatically during the study period, up from about 50 visits for every 100,000 children in 2012 to nearly 79 visits per 100,000 by 2016, according to the report.
But when broken down by race, the investigators found that the observed rise had not unfurled at an equal pace.
For example, nearly 52 out of every 100,000 white children were visiting an ER for a mental health issue by 2016. But among black children, that figure shot up to 78. Among other non-Hispanic minorities, the number rose to more than 79.