Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health

Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.1 Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders.

There are different ways to estimate which children have difficulties with mental health. CDC uses surveys, like the National Survey of Children’s Health, to understand which children have diagnosed mental disorders and whether they received treatment. In this type of survey, parents report on the diagnoses their child has received from a healthcare provider. Learn more facts about children’s mental disorders below.

Facts about mental disorders in U.S. children

  • ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children
    • 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.2 Read more information on ADHD here.
    • 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.3
    • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.3
    • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. 3
  • Some of these conditions commonly occur together. For example:
    • Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).3
    • For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%).3
    • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%) and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%).3
  • Depression and anxiety have increased over time
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.4
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012.4
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011-2012 (4.9%).4
1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder
  • Treatment rates vary among different mental disorders
    • Nearly 8 in 10 children (78.1%) aged 3-17 years with depression received treatment.3
    • 6 in 10 children (59.3%) aged 3-17 years with anxiety received treatment.3
    • More than 5 in 10 children (53.5%) aged 3-17 years with behavior disorders received treatment.3
1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder
  • Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders begin in early childhood
    • 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.5
  • Rates of mental disorders change with age
    • Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age.3
    • Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6–11 years than children younger or older.3
Bar Chart: Mental disorders by age in years - Depression: 3-5 years: 0.1%, 6-11 years: 1.7%, 12-17 years: 6.1% Anxiety: 3-5 years: 1.3%, 6-11 years: 6.6%, 12-17 years: 10.5% Depression: 3-5 years: 3.4%, 6-11 years: 9.1%, 12-17 years: 7.5%
  • Many family, community, and healthcare factors are related to children’s mental health
    • Among children aged 2-8 years, boys were more likely than girls to have a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.5
    • Among children living below 100% of the federal poverty level, more than 1 in 5 (22%) had a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.5
    • Age and poverty level affected the likelihood of children receiving treatment for anxiety, depression, or behavior problems.3

Note: The rates reported on this page are estimates based on parent report, using nationally representative surveys. This method has several limitations. It is not known to what extent children receive these diagnoses accurately. Estimates based on parent-reported diagnoses may match those based on medical records,6 but children may also have mental disorders that have not been diagnosed.

Access to mental health treatment

Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental disorders.7 Access to providers who can offer services, including screening, referrals, and treatment, varies by location. CDC is working to learn more about access to behavioral health services and supports for children and their families.

View information by state describing the rates of different types of providers who can offer behavioral health services providers by county.

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Read a recent report describing shortages of services, barriers to treatment, and how integration of behavioral health care with pediatric primary care could address the issues.External

Read a policy brief on potential ways to increase access to mental health services for children in rural areas

Data sources for mental health and related conditions

There are many different datasets which include information on children’s mental health and related conditions for children living in the United States.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
NHANES assesses health and nutritional status through interviews and physical examinations, and includes conditions, symptoms, and concerns associated with mental health and substance abuse, as well as the use and need for mental health services.

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
NHIS collects data on children’s mental health, mental disorders, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, depression and anxiety problems, and use and need for mental health services.

National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH)External
NSCH examines the health of children, with emphasis on well-being, including medical homes, family interactions, the health of parents, school and after-school experiences, and safe neighborhoods. This survey was redesigned in 2016.

For previous versions of this survey, see also:
National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH 2003, 2007, 2011-12)
National Survey of Children with Special Healthcare Needs (NS-CSHCN 2001, 2005-6, 2009-10)

National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome (NS-DATA)
NS-DATA collects information about children, 2-15 years old in 2011-2012, who had ever been diagnosed with ADHD and/or Tourette syndrome (TS), with the goal of better understanding diagnostic practices, level of impairment, and treatments for this group of children.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)External
NSDUH, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides national- and state-level data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs), as well as data on mental health in the United States.

National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS)
NYTS is a nationally representative school-based survey on tobacco use by public school students enrolled in grades 6-12.

School Associated Violent Death Study (SAVD)
SAVD plays an important role in monitoring trends related to school-associated violent deaths (including suicide), identifying the factors that increase the risk, and assessing the effects of prevention efforts.

School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS)
SHPPS is a national survey assessing school health policies and practices at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. Collected data includes mental health and social service policies.

Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)
WISQARS is an interactive database system that provides customized reports of injury-related data.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)
The YRBSS monitors health-risk behaviors, including tobacco use, substance abuse, unintentional injuries and violence, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

References:
  1. Perou R, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ, Pastor P, Ghandour RM, Gfroerer JC, Hedden SL, Crosby AE, Visser SN, Schieve LA, Parks SE, Hall JE, Brody D, Simile CM, Thompson WW, Baio J, Avenevoli S, Kogan MD, Huang LN. Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005—2011. MMWR 2013;62(Suppl; May 16, 2013):1-35. [Read summary]
  2. Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Ghandour RM, Holbrook JR, Blumberg SJ.  Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and associated treatment among U.S. children and adolescents, 2016.  Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Published online before print January 24, 2018. [Read articleExternal]
  3. Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, Ali MM, Lynch SE, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ. Prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in U.S. children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018. Published online before print  October 12, 2018 [Read summaryExternal]
  4. Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Ghandour RM, Blumberg SJ, Visser SN, Perou R, Walkup J. Epidemiology and impact of healthcare provider diagnosed anxiety and depression among US children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Published online before print April 24, 2018 [Read summaryExternal]
  5. Cree RA, Bitsko RH, Robinson LR, Holbrook JR, Danielson ML, Smith DS, Kaminski JW, Kenney MK, Peacock G. Health care, family, and community factors associated with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders and poverty among children aged 2–8 years — United States, 2016. MMWR, 2018;67(5):1377-1383. [Read article]
  6. Visser SN, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Perou R, Blumberg SJ. Convergent validity of parent-reported attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis: A cross-study comparison. JAMA Pediatrics. 2013; 167(7):674-675. [Read articleExternal]
  7. US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration & Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, and National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health; 1999. [Read reportExternal]