US children are increasingly likely to be admitted to the hospital for mental problems, although the rates of non--psychiatric hospitalizations have remained flat, according to a study.
From 1996 to 2007, the rate of psychiatric hospital discharges rose by more than 80 percent for five to 13-year-olds and by 42 percent for older teens, said the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“This occurs despite numerous efforts to make outpatient services for the more vulnerable kids more widely available,” said Joseph Blader of Stony Brook State University of New York, the study’s author.
“It [hospitalization] is a pretty traumatic thing for a family when your child is admitted to a psych unit,” he added, saying that such moves were a last resort.
Overall, short-term hospital admissions for mental illness rose from 156 to 283 per 100,000 children per year over the ten years of the study, which was based on data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey.
For adolescents, the rate increased from 683 to 969 per 100,000, while it went up from 921 to 996 for adults and dropped from 978 to 808 for people aged 65 and older.
For youngsters, bipolar disorder showed the steepest increase, while anxiety diagnoses dropped.
Although there have been concerns about over diagnosis of bipolar disorder and other mental problems among children, Blader said that was unlikely to be hiking the rates because hospitalizations are based on whether or not people are considered a danger to themselves or others, not psychiatric labels.
“Most typically, it’s volatile and aggressive behavior, or overreaction to minor provocations that lead to assaults on family members or peers,” he said. “Whereas before, we had hoped that more outpatient services would lead to a decrease in hospitalizations, the findings suggest a pressing need to learn what might have reversed that trend.”
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