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Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey

girl at home

This survey looks at the mental health of children and young people, experiences of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest survey looks at the mental health of children and young people in England in July 2020, and changes since 2017. Experiences of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the coronavirus pandemic were also examined.

The survey had two main aims:

  • Compare the likelihood of probable mental disorder in 5 to 16 year olds in 2017 with that of 5 to 16 year olds in 2020, overall and by subgroup (age, sex, ethnic group, neighbourhood deprivation, region, and the presence of parental psychological distress)
  • Describe the circumstances of 5 to 22 year olds and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Findings

  • Rates of probable mental disorder have increased since 2017. In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017. The increase was evident in both boys and girls.
  • Among those aged 5 to 22 years, 58.9% with a probable mental disorder reported having sleep problems. Young people aged 17 to 22 years with a probable mental disorder were more likely to report sleep problems (69.6%) than any other age group
  • About six in ten (62.6%) children aged 5 to 16 years with a probable mental disorder had regular support from their school or college, compared with 76.4% of children unlikely to have a mental disorder.
  • Children aged 5 to 16 years with a probable mental disorder were more than twice as likely to live in a household that had fallen behind with payments (16.3%) than children unlikely to have a mental disorder (6.4%)
  • Children and young people with a probable mental disorder were more likely to say that lockdown had made their life worse (54.1% of 11 to 16 year olds, and 59.0% of 17 to 22 year olds), than those unlikely to have a mental disorder (39.2% and 37.3% respectively)

Methodology

The most recent face to face survey in the series took place in 2017 and involved data collection from a random sample of children and young people (aged 2 to 19 years). Participants (now aged 5 to 22 years) who agreed to be re-contacted for future research were invited to take part in a follow-up online survey in July 2020.

Analysis from the 2020 follow-up survey draws on data from the 3,570 children and young people (and where appropriate, their parents) who took part in the face to face survey in 2017 and the online survey in 2020.

Both the 2017 survey and this 2020 follow-up used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to assess different aspects of mental health, including problems with emotions, behaviour, hyperactivity, concentration and relationships. Responses from parents, children and young people have been used to calculate the likelihood that the child had a probable or possible mental disorder at the time they completed the questionnaire. Analysis in this report looks at the characteristics of children with “probable mental disorders” compared with children who were either “unlikely to have a mental disorder” or had a “possible mental disorder”.

Research team: Katharine Sadler (NatCen), Sally McManus (NatCen), Franziska Marcheselli (NatCen), Dhriti Mandalia (NatCen), Timothy Vizard (ONS), Tamsin Ford (Uni of Cambridge), Tamsin Newlove-Delgado (Uni of Exeter), Jodie Davis (ONS), Tracy Williams (ONS), Charlotte Leach (ONS)

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 the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter.

 

Download the 2020 report

Previous reports