(Bloomberg) -- Mental illness in children costs $247 billion annually, a figure increasing along with the number of kids hospitalized for mood disorders, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders, according to a U.S. report.
As many as one-in-five children ages three to 17 has a mentally illness, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as the most prevalent diagnosis, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of children hospitalized for mood disorders increased 80% from 1997 to 2010, the report says, citing a U.S. study from that year.
The CDC report released last week draws on a number of U.S. surveys that collect data on children’s mental health. The Atlanta-based agency uses the report to mark the prevalence of the disorders and promote public health initiatives to treat and prevent them. Researchers found that suicide, often stemming from mental illness, was the second-leading cause of death in 2010 among adolescents ages 12 to 17.
“Millions of children in the U.S. have mental disorders that affect their overall health and present challenges for their loved ones,” says Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC. “We are working to both increase our understanding of these disorders, and help scale up programs and strategies to promote children’s mental health so that our children grow to lead productive, healthy lives.”
About 7% of children had ADHD, a syndrome in which people have trouble paying attention, act impulsively or are overly active. The prevalence of ADHD increased 3% each year from 1997 to 2006 in one survey; in another, there was a 21.8% total increase in 2007 from 2003. Autism increased as much as fourfold in 2007 compared with a decade earlier.
ADHD is twice as prevalent as conduct disorders, the next-most common mental ailment. Other widespread conditions include anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders and Tourette syndrome.
Meanwhile, doctors are protesting new guidance for the diagnosis of some mental disorders, including autism, contained in the revised edition of a professional manual.
The so-called “psychiatric bible,” whose first update in 19 years was released at a medical meeting in San Francisco, also influences the way patients are treated and reimbursed for mental disorders. A petition that raised concerns about the manual’s diagnostic categories and patient safety received more than 3,000 signatures from Paris to Montreal in recent months.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the standard used by mental-health professionals for diagnosing illness and for research. The newest edition is meant to incorporate the latest research findings and has collapsed several conditions, including Asperger’s syndrome and child disintegrative disorder, into a single autism diagnosis.
The new guideline “is really an example of psychiatric imperialism,” says Gordon Parker, Scientia Professor of psychiatry at Sydney-based University of New South Wales. It has “a flawed logic and a flawed model which leads to compromised research and also compromises management.”
Parker was speaking to reporters with other Australian academics who commented on the changes. In March, a group of British mental-health professionals issued a petition against the changes, according to a release posted on the British Psychological Society’s website.
The manual known as DSM is the most widely used classification system globally, says Michael Berk, professor of psychiatry at Melbourne’s Deakin University.
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