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Medical News and Perspectives
July 18, 2012

Chronic Mental Health Issues in Children Now Loom Larger Than Physical Problems

JAMA. 2012;308(3):223-225. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6951

It's hard to be a kid today. For the first time in the half century that the US government has continuously collected data, the top 5 disabilities affecting US children are mental health problems rather than physical problems.

In 2008-2009, 7.7% of US children younger than 18 years had a disability that limited usual activity, which is a 4-fold increase in the prevalence of childhood activity limitations since 1960, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Among these children, a speech problem; learning disability; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); other emotional, mental, or behavior problems; and other developmental problems were each reported by roughly 1 in 5 parents as contributing to their child's limitations, according to Children With Disabilities, the newest volume in the journal series The Future of Children (http://tinyurl.com/6myzbco), published by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. Asthma, the most prevalent physical condition reported, was named as a cause for 8% of children with limitations.

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