1 in 8 children and teens in England has a mental health disorder

One in eight children and young people between the ages of five and 19 in England has a mental disorder, according to a new report.

The report, “Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017,” published Thursday by the UK’s National Health Service, gives the first official figures since 2004 exploring mental health problems among the young. Its findings are based on a survey of more than 9,000 young people.

One in six (16.9%) 17- to 19-year-olds was found to have a mental disorder and the group most at risk of mental illness was young women, with nearly one in four of 17- to 19-year-old girls struggling with mental health problems.

Mental disorders were grouped into four categories: emotional, behavioral, hyperactivity and other less common disorders.

Mental health problems are less common in younger age groups but numbers are slowly rising, according to the report. The five- to 15-year-old age group saw a 1.1-percentage-point rise in overall prevalence of mental disorders, from 10.1% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2017, with emotional disorders more common in this age group — increasing to 5.8% in 2017 from 3.9% in 2004.

“These new figures reveal just how many of our young people are affected by mental health conditions. They make for sobering reading, confirming what psychologists who work with this group have known for years — that the mental health challenges children and young people face are increasing,” said Sarb Bajwa, chief executive of psychologists’ body the British Psychological Society. “While there has been some progress in recent years, these new figures must now inspire the government and the NHS to act decisively to ensure we reach the thousands of children and young people who are desperately in need of support.”

Dr. Dennis Ougrin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, said that despite the overall increase, the prevalence is not as great as many have predicted.

“The increase is almost entirely explained by an increase in the prevalence of emotional disorders, especially in girls,” added Ougrin, who was not involved in the report.

“Children with mental disorders are heavier users of social media and are affected by the social media more significantly than the children without mental disorders,” he added.

The report also found that young women were three times as likely (22.4%) to have emotional disorders as boys of the same age group (7.9%).

Emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety, were found to increase with age and were more common in girls than boys.

“Girls and young women between 17 and 19 have rates of emotional disorder more than twice that of any of the other demographic groups studied,” the report said.

They were also identified as having higher rates of self harm than other demographic groups — with 52.7% of young women with a disorder reporting having hurt themselves or made a suicide attempt.

Young people who identified as LGBT were nearly three times more likely to have a mental disorder (34.9%) than those who identified as heterosexual (13.2%), according to the report.

Mental disorders tended to be more prevalent in white British children than among minority groups. Children living in lower income households were also more likely to have mental disorders, with rates tending to be higher in children whose parents were receiving low income benefits, the study found.