The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its first comprehensive report on the mental health of children from 2005 to 2011.

A host of mental health disorders was monitored to improve public understanding of how children between the ages of 3 and 17 are affected by the debilitating aspects the disorders demand.

Researchers surveyed families, children, and medical records to analyze disorders including depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and Tourette syndrome, among others.

In order of prevalence, here are the currently reported disorders:

  • ADHD, 6.8 percent
  • Behavioral conduct problems, 3.5 percent
  • Anxiety, 3.0 percent
  • Depression, 2.1 percent
  • ASD, 1.1 percent
  • Tourette syndrome, 0.2 percent.
  • Illicit drug use disorder in the past year, 4.7 percent
  • Alcohol abuse disorder in the past year, 4.2 percent
  • Cigarette dependence in past month, 2.8 percent
  • Suicide rate for ages 10 to 19, 4.5 suicides per 100,000 in 2010

Among the findings, a significant conclusion illustated that boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD, behavioral conduct problems, ASD, and Tourette syndrome, as well as more likely to become dependent on cigarettes. The CDC also noted that boys between the ages 12 and 17 are more likely to commit suicide than girls, while girls are likely than boys to struggle with depression or alcoholism-related disorders.

CDC also compared prevalence of mental health relative to education. Less educated households were more prone to have children with behavior or conduct issues and increased anxiety and depression.

Poverty also played a major role. As poverty took over, parents reported more incidents of ADHD and behavior issues, along with dependence on illicit drugs.

When comparing the data between ethnic groups, non-Hispanic children had a greater prevalence rate for ADHD, depression, and substance abuse-related disorders; while black non-Hispanic children likely struggled with behavioral or conduct problems.

The report also emphasized ADHD as the most diagnosed mental health condition in children ages 3 to 17.

While diagnostic measures were not emphasized in this surveillance report, the health authorities did want to establish a standard definition of mental disorders in the future.

"Standard surveillance case definitions are needed to reliably categorize and count mental disorders among surveillance systems," they wrote, "which will provide a more complete picture of the prevalence of mental disorders among children."

The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) diagnostic manual has been referred to as the mental disorders bible for doctors, and every so often the public cries out against some of the proposed changes.

For instance, when the APA completed its fifth edition, which was the first big change in 17 years, studies found that the new definition of autism would put some patients at risk of losing health care services, even educational and social amenities.

Meeting the needs of a patient or family member with a mental disorder is not cheap. In the United States, estimated costs for care totals to $247 billion annually. This new surveillance report, according to the CDC, would help initiate more preventative tools and ways to allocate resources.

The report involved different authorities who used a variety of approaches to survey the different types of disorders, which may hinder how the statistics compare to each other, including the frequency of one disorder over another.

"The goal is now to build on the strengths of these partnering agencies to develop better ways to document how many children have mental disorders, better understand the impacts of mental disorders, inform needs for treatment and intervention strategies, and promote the mental health of children," the authors said in the Children's Mental Health Surveillance Fact Sheet. "This report is an important step on the road to recognizing the impact of childhood mental disorders and developing a public health approach to address children's mental health."

The CDC collaborated with other federal partners: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental Health Surveillance Among Children - United States, 2005-2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2013.