Nearly a fifth of children in England ‘have mental health issues’

Nearly a fifth of children in England ‘have mental health issues’

Figures show a rise in mental health coinditions among teenagers (PA Wire)

The number of children and young adults suffering from mental health disorders has surged in the past five years, figures showed on Tuesday, laying bare the impact of the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis on the younger generation.

New figures published by NHS Digital showed that rates of probable mental disorders among children aged between 7 and 16 had increased to 18 per cent in 2022 – a rise of around 6 per cent in five years.

Over a fifth (22 per cent) of young people aged 17 to 24 years had a probable mental disorder, according to the figures.

This figure increased to 25.7 per cent among those aged 17 to 19 – an 8.3 per cent rise on last year. Six in ten (60.3 per cent) of those in the age group had a possible eating problem, the report said.

The cost of living crisis was found to have a particularly significant mental health impact on many children. Among 17 to 22 year olds with a probable mental disorder, almost a sixth (14.8 per cent) reported living in a household that had experienced not being able to buy enough food or using a food bank in the past year.

And nearly a fifth (17.8 per cent) of those aged 7 to 16 with a probable mental disorder lived in a household that had fallen behind with bills, rent or mortgage, compared with 7.6 per cent of those unlikely to have a mental disorder.

NHS Digital’s report examined the mental health of 2,866 children and young people living in England aged between 7 and 24 and monitored changes across a five-year period. It looked at their household circumstances, education and employment.

It follows separate data published by NHS Digital on Thursday which showed a dramatic rise in the number of children as young as 11 needing help from NHS mental health services.

Across all age groups, there has been a rise in the numbers of people in contact with NHS mental health services, with almost a fifth more people needing support compared with three years ago. Almost one in four 16-year old girls required support and treatment, the figures showed.

A breakdown of the data shows a 29 per cent rise in 2021/22 in the number of under-18s in contact with mental health, learning disability and autism services when compared with 2020/21, the first year of the Covid pandemic, and the previous (non-pandemic) year.

Analysis of NHS data conducted by The Pharmaceutical Journal has also found that the number of children being prescribed drugs to help them sleep has almost tripled in the past seven years.

More than 60,000 children had been prescribed the hormone melatonin in March 2022, an increase of 168 per cent compared with April 2015.

Anxiety and depression has also been significantly worsened by the cost of living crisis, with a survey published last week by YouGov and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) finding that over a third of adults in London (39 per cent) felt that the rise in prices of food and energy was affecting their mental health. Over half (55 per cent) said that the cost of living is currently affecting friends‘ or family’s mental health.

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