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Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey

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Published: November 2018

This survey is part of a series which provides England’s Official Statistics on trends in child mental health. It was commissioned by NHS Digital, with funding from the Department of Health and Social Care. We collaborated with Office for National Statistics (ONS) and youthinmind.

Explore different factors around mental health and childhood by using this interactive tool:

Find out more about the tool here.

Aim

This survey series provides England’s Official Statistics on trends in child mental health. Major surveys of the mental health of children and young people in England were carried out in 1999, 2004, and 2017. While other surveys use brief tools to screen for general distress, this survey series applied rigorous, detailed and consistent methods to assess for a range of different types of disorder.

Findings

Prevalence

  • One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017.
  • One in twenty (5.0%) 5 to 19 year olds met the criteria for two or more individual mental disorders at the time of the interview.

Trends 

  • Emotional disorders have become more common in 5 to 15 year olds: up from 4.3% in 1999 and 3.9% in 2004, to 5.8% by 2017.  The increase since 2004 is evident in both boys and girls.
  • Other types of disorder - behavioural, hyperactivity, and other less common disorders - have remained broadly stable in prevalence among 5 to 15 year olds over time. 

Variation

  • Demographics: Young people aged 17 to 19 were three times more likely to have a disorder (16.9%) than preschool children aged 2 to 4 (5.5%). Young women emerged as a high risk group. Disorder rates varied by ethnic group, and were highest in White British children. 14 to 19 year olds who did not identify as heterosexual were more likely to have a mental disorder (34.9%) than those who identified as heterosexual (13.2%).
  • Socioeconomics: Living in a low-income household or with a parent in receipt of income-related benefits was associated with higher rates of mental disorder in children.
  • Health: Children with poor general health, special educational needs, or children with a parent with poor mental health or in receipt of a disability-related benefit, were more likely to have a mental disorder than other children.
  • Family: Rates of mental disorder were higher in children living in households with less healthy family functioning.

Methods

The 2017 survey collected information about mental health and wellbeing from a probability sample of children and young people living in England and registered with a GP. Information was collected on 9,117 2 to 19 year olds. The survey combined reports from children, their parents and teachers (depending on the age of the selected child). The 2017 study provides the first findings on the prevalence of mental disorder in 2 to 4 year olds, and spans the transition into adulthood by covering 17 to 19 year olds. As well as using rigorous assessment methods, all cases were reviewed by clinically-trained raters.

Download the report from NHS Digital website