Childhood Mental Disability Rates Have Jumped
According to a new report, rates of developmental and mental disabilities, ranging from speech problems to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, have jumped 21% among U.S. children. Study author Dr. Amy Houtrow, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh says that overall, parent-reported disabilities rose to about 6 million between 2001 and 2011. “We know that disabilities have been on the rise for decades,” Houtrow said. Children from lower-income families are more likely to have a disability than wealthier children. However, the surge in neurodevelopment and mental troubles was most notable among wealthier families, the researchers found.
While the study didn’t look as to why this is so, Houtrow said that now there is less stigma about getting help for a disability than in the past. She also thinks that wealthier families have better access to care. Dr. Sayed Naqvi, a pediatric neurologist agreed, saying he has seen a surge in requested services for autism, ADHD, and speech delay. “Many of those families have easy access to pediatric information on the Internet and a growing awareness that their kids can be helped,” he said.
For the study, the researchers’ analyzed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Surveys taken four time periods between 2001 and 2011. Parents we first asked to report if their child has a limitation or disability. Next, they had to choose from a list of limiting physical, developmental or mental health conditions. Physical conditions included: asthma or breathing problems, hearing problems, vision problems, bone/joint/muscle problems, injury. Mental/neurodevelopmental conditions included: epilepsy or seizures, mental retardation, speech problems, ADHD, learning disability, mental/emotional/behavioral problems, and other developmental problems.
The researchers found that physical disability cases declined almost 12% over the decade. There were significant increases reported in “other mental, emotional or behavioral problems,” which rose 65%, and speech problems and mental retardation each increased by 63% said Houtrow. According to parent reports, ADHD increased 22% and asthma fell 24%, according to the researchers’ findings.