HealthDay News — As many as one-in-five U.S. children and teens experience a mental disorder, according to the CDC.

Data from multiple large ongoing federal surveillance projects puts the sum of several disorders, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral and conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorders, depression and anxiety, among 3- to 17-year-olds at about 16.7%. The results were published in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Ruth Perou, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues summarized information about the prevalence and types of mental health disorders among U.S. children from the following surveillance projects:

Continue Reading

  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005 to 2010
  • National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 2007 to 2011
  • National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), 2007
  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2010 to 2011
  • National Vital Statistics System, 2010
  • Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2011
  • Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, 2008
  • National Comorbidity Survey (adolescent supplement), 2001 to 2004

ADHD was most commonly reported disorder, with a prevalence of 6.8%, they found. Other prevalent diagnoses were behavioral or conduct problems, depression and autism spectrum disorders, reported in 3.5%, 2.1%, and 1.1% of children, respectively.

Of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, 4.2% reported an alcohol abuse disorder, and approximately 8% reported experiencing 14 or more mentally unhealthy days in the past month.

The researchers also examined the prevalence of mental disorders by demographic data. ADHD appeared to be more common among whites than blacks or Hispanics, more common in boys than girls, and more common in households with health insurance. Similarly, boys were more likely than girls to be diagnosed with conduct problems, whereas blacks had higher rates of these disorders than whites or Hispanics.

The researchers identified several study limitations including lack of multivariate analyses to identify other factors independently associated with the mental disorders examined, and reliance on some self- or parent-reported symptoms and diagnoses.

Among surveys for which specific criteria were used to determine diagnoses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-4) was most commonly used. The American Psychiatric Association recently released the revised DSM-5, which changes many of the diagnostic categories for childhood mental disorders.

“Standard surveillance case definitions are needed to reliably categorize and count mental disorders among surveillance systems, which will provide a more complete picture of the prevalence of mental disorders among children,” the researchers wrote. “More comprehensive surveillance is needed to develop a public health approach that will both help prevent mental disorders and promote mental health among children.”


  1. Perou R et al. “Mental health surveillance among children — United States, 2005-2011.” MMWR. 2013; 62 (supplement): 1-35.