Mental health disorders affect more children than cancer, diabetes and AIDs combined, study reveals

Mental illness is the most pervasive health condition among children, a major new report has revealed.

The finding, published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that one in seven young people will develop a mental health condition, such as depression, ADHS or anxiety.

This represents more than the number with cancer, diabetes or AIDs combined, the study says.

The discovery comes after a study of more than 1.3 million Danish children, who were monitored from birth to adulthood. According to the report, 14.6 per cent of girls and 15.5 per cent of boys were diagnosed with a mental illness before the age of 18.

Anxiety was the most common illness among girls, while more boys developed ADHD. Girls were also more prone to eating disorders, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and mood disorders than boys.

However, boys were much more likely to develop a mental health disorder at a younger age compared to girls.

Commenting on the study, author Professor Soren Dalsgaard, a child psychologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, said: “Worldwide, this nationwide study is the first, to our knowledge, of the incidence of the full spectrum of diagnosed mental disorders in childhood and adolescence.

“These findings suggest precise estimates of rates and risks of all mental disorders during childhood and adolescence [and] are essential for future planning of services and care and for research.”

The research comes after a recent study found that “smartphone addiction” among young people is fuelling a mental health crisis. According to the report, published by King’s College London (KCL), one in four children and young people use their smartphones in a way that is “consistent with a behavioural addiction”, with an average of 23 per cent exhibiting “problematic smartphone usage”.

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