About one in 20 American children have depression or anxiety, study reveals

ATLANTA — Analysis of nationwide data revealed that 2.6 million American children — more than 1 in every 20 — were diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression between 2011 and 2012. According to the report, anxiety in children and adolescents increased in the United States, while depression diagnoses have remained at the same levels as previous studies.

Researchers analyzed data from the nationally representative National Survey of Children’s Health for 2003, 2007, and 2011 through 2012. In 2011 to 2012, 65,000 parents were asked about their children’s problems with anxiety and/or depression that has been diagnosed by a doctor or another healthcare professional. The children in question were aged six to 17 years.

In the most recent survey, 5.3% of children and teens were diagnosed with current anxiety or depression. The percentage of children with current anxiety in 2007 was 3.5%. In 2011-12, it was 4.1%. The percentage of children with current depression rose from 2.5% in 2007 to 2.7% in 2012.

“These estimates correspond with approximately two million children aged six to 17 years in 2011-12 with current anxiety, 1.4 million children with current depression, 2.6 million with current anxiety or depression, and 760,000 children with both,” wrote lead author Rebecca H. Bitsko of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Perhaps the most telling statistic from the study was the rise in the percentage of children who had ever been diagnosed with anxiety or depression from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-12.

The researchers also found that children who were diagnosed with anxiety or depression were more likely to develop other health conditions as well, such as neurobehavioral issues and obesity.

“Children with anxiety and depression may have needs that go beyond diagnosis and mental health treatment,” Dr. Bitsko comments. “Anxiety and depression are associated with school problems, parenting stress, and unmet medical needs. Parents, healthcare providers, and teachers can look for ways to support children with anxiety and depression in all areas of the child’s life.”

The study was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

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