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Nearly half of kids with mental disorders go without treatment, study finds

December 13, 2009 |  9:02 pm

If your child broke an arm or had a nasty bout of pneumonia, you’d probably visit the doctor. But a new study from researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health finds that only 55% of kids with a mental disorder sought professional treatment.

Kids What’s more, that figure represents an increase in use of mental health services, according to a report being published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers wanted to establish a baseline on the prevalence of six mental health disorders affecting children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 15. Using data from 3,042 kids who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, they  found:

The researchers, led by Kathleen Merikangas of NIMH, found that mental disorders – especially ADHD – were more prevalent among kids with lower socioeconomic status. One exception was the category of anxiety disorders, which were more common among children of higher socioeconomic status.

Still, only 32% of those kids visited a doctor for the condition. Overall, African American and Mexican American children were less likely than whites to get treatment.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: U.S. scientists say more than 1 out of 10 kids suffers from some kind of mental disorder. Credit: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune