20/07/21 – 1 in 8 children in high income countries has a mental health disorder at any given time


This is the terrifying conclusion of a new article published on 19th July 2021 in the BMJ Journal ‘Evidence-Based Mental Health.’

Authors of ‘Prevalence of childhood mental disorders in high-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis to inform policymaking’


allege that:

‘An estimated one in eight children have mental disorders at any given time, causing symptoms and impairment, therefore requiring treatment. Yet even in higher-income countries, most children with mental disorders are not receiving services for these conditions. We discuss the implications, particularly the need to substantially increase public investments in effective interventions. We also discuss the policy urgency, given the emerging increases in childhood mental health problems since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Data was analysed from 11 countries, including Britain and the USA; the studies involved 61,545 children aged 0-18 and the analysis showed that overall 12.7% presented with a mental disorder.

The most prevalent were:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder involving argumentative behaviour
  • Conduct disorder
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse-induced disorder.

Dr Simon Fraser, from the University of Vancouver said:

‘Only 44.2 per cent of children with mental disorders received any services… in contrast, robust services are in place for child physical health problems such as cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases in most of these countries.’

The research findings are deeply instructive for Westminster, as the Government prepares its largest piece of mental health legislation since the 1983 Mental Health Act. They have exposed, as the authors state:

‘An invisible crisis in children’s mental health…. A high prevalence of childhood mental health disorders coupled with unacceptable service shortfalls in high-income countries to a degree that violates children’s rights…….Many countries will need to substantially increase children’s mental health budgets. This is particularly urgent given documented increases in children’s mental health needs since Covid-19.’