Anxiety Rates Are Higher Than Ever for Kids in the United States

Photo: Stocksy/Kristen Curette Hines
The mental-health epidemic is real, with one in five Americans suffering from an issue under its huge umbrella each year. But the struggle isn't just limited to adults. According to a new analysis, 2.6 million children and adolescents in the United States—AKA 1 in 20—were diagnosed with anxiety or depression between 2011 and 2012. And specifically regarding anxiety, the reported numbers are climbing.

In the nationwide report published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers used National Survey of Children's Health data from 2003, 2007, and 2011 to 2012—which included parents reporting if their child had been professionally diagnosed with anxiety or depression—to study children ages 6 to 17. (In the 2011–12 survey alone, more than 65,000 parents shared their child's mental-health status.)

Anxiety in children grew significantly between 2007 and 2011 to 2012, from 3.5 to 4.1 percent.

Researchers found that the prevalence of depression in children and teens didn't change much between 2007 and 2011 to 2012: It only jumped from 2.5 to 2.7 percent. Anxiety, on the other hand, grew significantly, from 3.5 to 4.1 percent in that time period. Additionally, the percentage of those who had been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety increased from 5.4 percent in 2003 to 8.4 percent from 2011 to 2012; what's more, being diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression made them more likely to have other health problems such as neurobehavioral disorders and obesity.

Anxiety and/or depression in children is related to problems at school, parents' stress, and unmet medical needs, according to lead study author Rebecca H. Bitsko, PhD, of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control. She says that even though the number of children with anxiety is reportedly increasing, "nearly 20 percent of children with anxiety or depression didn't receive mental-health treatment in the past year." In fact, just one-third of the children with anxiety or depression had a "medical home," AKA a go-to source for health care.

As mental health becomes an easier issue to discuss openly, let's hope adults can find ways—whether through all-natural methods, professional help or both—to support kids who are dealing with these struggles at such a young age.

Here's how an anti-inflammatory diet could impact your mental health. Or, take a look at five brain-boosting supplements everyone should take.

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