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Half of U.S. Kids With Mental Issues Are Getting Help
Date:12/14/2009

Depression and anxiety often go unrecognized, experts say

MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A little over half of the children in the United States who have mental problems, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, get professional help, federal health officials report.

However, "you could look at it the other way -- that half don't," said Kathleen Merikangas, a senior investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and lead researcher of a study published online Dec. 14 in Pediatrics.

Depression and anxiety often go undiagnosed and untreated, the study found.

"We have a substantial number of kids in America who are suffering from a current [mental] disorder," Merikangas said. The researchers found that 13 percent of the 3,042 children and adolescents in the study had at least one mental disorder and about 2 percent had more than one, usually a combination of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder.

The data came from youths aged 8 to 15 whose families participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 to 2004. The youths were interviewed, and parents and caregivers also provided information about their children's mental health.

The researchers looked at six mental problems: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, eating disorders, depression, ADHD and conduct disorder. They found:

  • 8.6 percent had ADHD, including more boys than girls.
  • 3.7 percent had depression, more common among girls.
  • 2.1 percent had a conduct disorder.
  • 0.7 percent had an anxiety or panic disorder.
  • 0.1 percent had an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were found to be more likely to have a disorder, particularly ADHD. Those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to have an anxiety disorde
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