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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2009;11(1):7-20.

Epidemiology of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

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Section on Developmental Genetic Epidemiology, Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health Intramural Research Program, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


This article provides a review of the magnitude of mental disorders in children and adolescents from recent community surveys across the world. Although there is substantial variation in the results depending upon the methodological characteristics of the studies, the findings converge in demonstrating that approximately one fourth of youth experience a mental disorder during the past year, and about one third across their lifetimes. Anxiety disorders are the most frequent conditions in children, followed by behavior disorders, mood disorders, and substance use disorders. Fewer than half of youth with current mental disorders receive mental health specialty treatment. However, those with the most severe disorders tend to receive mental health services. Current issues that are now being identified in the field of child psychiatric epidemiology include: refinement of classification and assessment, inclusion of young children in epidemiologic surveys, integration of child and adult psychiatric epidemiology, and evaluation of both mental and physical disorders in children.

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