HAMILTON, ONTARIO – One in five children suffers from a mental disorder – with dramatic increases in depression and anxiety in the past 30 years – but less than a third have had contact with a mental health provider, according to a new study.
The results of the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study mirror findings from a similar study conducted in 1983, but the latter version shows a larger proportion of children and young people with disorders that have had contact with health providers and elsewhere, usually through of schools.
The new study also found that patterns of prevalence across different genders and age groups have changed. Specifically, hyperactivity disorders in boys aged four to 11 years increased from 9% to 16%. On the other hand, there was a significant decrease in disruptive behavior in boys aged 12 to 16 years, with figures ranging from 10% to 3%.
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The researchers also found a significant increase in anxiety and depression in young males and females. This total jumped from 9% in 1983 to 13% in the 2014 study.
There was also a notable increase – from 7% to 19% – in perceptions of need for professional help with mental disorders. However, the researchers wrote that it was difficult to determine whether this is linked to the growing prominence of stigma and mental health awareness in the past 30 years.
In this period, the prevalence of all mental disorders increased in communities with a population of 1,000 to 100,000, not in large urban areas. There has been strong evidence suggesting that poor children are more likely to have a mental disorder if their neighborhood is more violent than others.
The study also revealed that last year more than 8% of young people thought of suicide and 4% reported an attempted suicide.
The study included 10,802 children and youths between the ages of four and 17 of 6,537 families in Ontario. The sample size was much larger than the study conducted in 1983, when 3,290 children from 1,869 families participated.
"This is a very robust study that we feel represents the situation in Canada," says Michael Boyle, co-principal investigator of the study, in a statement. "This means that there are more than one million Canadian children and young people with mental health problems. This needs to be addressed. "
Eight articles, each focusing on a different aspect of the 2014 OCHS data, were published simultaneously Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
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