(HealthDay News) – Up to one-fifth of U.S. children experience a mental disorder, and the prevalence of such disorders appears to be on the rise, according to research published in a supplement to the May 17 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

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

The researchers found that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children aged 3–17 years was most commonly reported by parents, with a prevalence of 6.8%. 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 12–17, 4.2%  reported an alcohol abuse disorder, and approximately 8% reported >14 mentally unhealthy days in the past month.

“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 authors write. “More comprehensive surveillance is needed to develop a public health approach that will both help prevent mental disorders and promote mental health among children.”

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