Mental health diagnoses have become common in children raised in developed nations.
Medication is often prescribed to treat the symptoms of these conditions but few population-based studies have examined the use of prescription medication to treat mental health problems among younger as well as older school-aged children (8–10). A new CDC report describes the sociodemographic characteristics of children aged 6–17 years prescribed medication or taking medication during the past 6 months for emotional or behavioral difficulties, and describes parental reports of the perceived benefit of this medication.
This follows a report from December 2013 showing 6.0% of U.S. adolescents aged 12–19 reported psychotropic drug use in the past month - primarily antidepressants and general psychotropics fr girls and ADD/ADHD medication for boys.
The new study, based on the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-2012, finds that 7.5% of children aged 6–17 years used prescribed psychiatric medication in the last 6 months - and that children on welfare or Medicaid were far more likely to be on those medications - 47% more likely than kids on private insurance. Poor, young white males were most likely to be placed on medication. Kids with no insurance at all were least likely to be on prescription medication.
Children with Medicaid/CHIP significantly different from children with private insurance or uninsured children. Uninsured children significantly different from all other insurance status categories. CHIP is children's health insurance program. TRICARE/other includes children with military, Medicare, and other government insurance. Parents were asked, "During the past 6 months, was the [sample child] prescribed medication or taking prescription medication for difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior, or being able to get along with others?" SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey.
Prescription medication use went up sharply as girls aged: 6.3% for older females versus 4.0% for younger females, a 58% increase. There was no difference by age group for males.
Percentage of children aged 6–17 years prescribed medication during the past 6 months for emotional or behavioral difficulties, by sex and age group, and race and Hispanic origin United States, 2011–2012. Females aged 6–17 years significantly different from males aged 6–17 years. Females aged 6–11 years significantly different from males aged 6–11 years, and females aged 12–17 years significantly different from males aged 12–17 years. Females aged 6–11 years significantly different from females aged 12–17 years. Non-Hispanic white children significantly different from non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children. Non-Hispanic black children significantly different from Hispanic children. Parents were asked, "During the past 6 months, was the [sample child] prescribed medication or taking prescription medication for difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior, or being able to get along with others?" SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey.
NHIS data were used to estimate the percentage of children who were prescribed medication for emotional and behavioral difficulties during the past 6 months. NHIS is designed to yield a sample that is representative of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States, and the survey uses weighting to produce national estimates. NHIS data are collected continuously throughout the year for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) by interviewers from the U.S. Census Bureau. NHIS collects information about the health and health care of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. Interviews are conducted in respondents' homes, but follow-ups to complete interviews may be conducted over the telephone.
The Sample Child component collects detailed data on health conditions for a randomly selected child in households with at least one child. All of the data in the Sample Child component are obtained from a proxy respondent; no information is from medical records. A responsible adult, usually a parent, responds to the survey questions as proxy for the sample child. For further information about NHIS and the questionnaire, visit the NHIS website.
Citation: LaJeana D. Howie, Patricia N. Pastor, and Susan L. Lukacs, CDC/NCHS, Office of Analysis and Epidemiology, Use of medication prescribed for emotional or behavioral difficulties among children aged 6–17 years in the United States, 2011–2012. NCHS data brief, no 148. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014.
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