Children and teens seeking treatment for mental health issues made an average of more than 1 million emergency room visits annually between 2018-21, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
what you need to know
- Children and teens seeking treatment for mental health issues made an average of more than 1 million emergency room visits annually between 2018-21, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The study builds on previous research showing mental health disorders in children and young people, including suicide attempts and suicide, have been on the rise over the past decade
- The authors note that due to the decline in the number of psychiatric care facilities and the lack of access to outpatient services, many children and adolescents rely more on emergency departments for immediate mental health services
- About a fifth of patients are either admitted or transferred to a psychiatric hospital, and a quarter receive or are prescribed at least one psychiatric medication, the study shows
The study builds on previous research showing that mental health disorders in children and young people, including suicide attempts and suicides, have been rising over the past decade.
In 2021, three children’s health organizations joined forces to declare a national children’s mental health emergency, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated children’s mental health problems.
The CDC study, which estimated based on data collected from surveys of emergency room visitors, found that over a four-year period, an average of 1,026,000 children and adolescents diagnosed with mental illness visited the hospital each year, or 14 visits per person. 1,000 children and adults.
The authors noted that as a result of the decline in psychiatric care facilities and lack of access to outpatient services, many children and adolescents have become more reliant on emergency departments for immediate mental health services.
Research shows that about one in five patients is either admitted to a hospital or transferred to a psychiatric unit. A quarter of patients received or were prescribed at least one psychiatric medication.
Mood disorders (5 visits per 1,000 children), anxiety disorders (4.4 visits), and behavioral and mood disorders (3.7 visits) were the most commonly treated conditions. This is consistent with other research showing that anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorders are the most common mental health conditions in children and adolescents.
The number of emergency visits for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years was much higher (30.7 per 1,000) than for children under 12 (5.3), unlike non-mental health visits, which accounted for approximately 1.5 times the number of visits among adolescents.
Researchers note that the most common mental health disorders, such as depression, occur at higher rates in adolescents than in children.
The study found that girls (16.1 visits per 1,000) were more likely than boys (12.1 visits) to seek treatment for mental health disorders in emergency rooms. Meanwhile, black children and adolescents had more hospital visits per capita (20.8 per 1,000) than other racial and ethnic groups, followed by white (14.4) and Hispanic (13.2) patients.
The study’s authors wrote that they compared the 2020 estimates with other years due to concerns that the pandemic could affect the data. But they said they found no statistically significant difference.