Children and young people's mental health in 2023
About the study
This report presents findings from the fourth (wave 4) in a series of follow up reports to the 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey, conducted in 2023. 2,370 children and young people who took part in the MHCYP 2017 survey took part in the wave 4 follow up. The mental health of children and young people aged 8 to 25 years living in England in 2023 is examined, as well as their household circumstances, and their experiences of education and services and of life in their families and communities. Comparisons are made with 2017, 2020 (wave 1), 2021 (wave 2), and 2022 (wave 3) where possible, to monitor changes over time.
- In 2023, about 1 in 5 children and young people aged 8 to 25 years had a probable mental disorder. This was 20.3% of 8 to 16 year olds, 23.3% of 17 to 19 year olds and 21.7% of 20 to 25 year olds.
- After a rise in prevalence between 2017 and 2020, rates of probable mental disorder remained stable in all age groups between 2022 and 2023.
- Among 8 to 16 year olds, rates of probable mental disorder were similar for boys and girls, while for 17 to 25 year olds, rates were twice as high for young women than young men.
- More than 1 in 4 children aged 8 to 16 years (26.8%) with a probable mental disorder had a parent who could not afford for their child to take part in activities outside school or college, compared with 1 in 10 (10.3%) of those unlikely to have a mental disorder.
- 17 to 25 year olds with a probable mental disorder were 3 times more likely to not be able to afford to take part in activities such as sports, days out, or socialising with friends, compared with those unlikely to have a mental disorder (26.1% compared with 8.3%).
- Children aged 11 to 16 years with a probable mental disorder were 5 times more likely than those unlikely to have a mental disorder to have been bullied in person (36.9% compared with 7.6%). They were also more likely to have been bullied online (10.8% compared with 2.6%).
- Just over half (54.8%) of young people aged 17 to 25 years reported being worried about the impact of climate change.
- Young women aged 17 to 23 years were less likely to be optimistic than young men about having enough money (38.5% compared with 60.5%) and about their health (including mental health and wellbeing) (51.4% compared with 67.8%).
- In 2023, eating disorders were identified in 12.5% of 17 to 19 year olds, with rates 4 times higher in young women (20.8%) than young men (5.1%). 2.6% of 11 to 16 year olds were identified with eating disorders, with rates 4 times higher in girls (4.3%) than boys (1.0%) and 5.9% of 20 to 25 year olds, were identified with eating disorders with no difference in rates evident between women and men.
The most recent face-to-face survey in the series took place in 2017 and involved interviews with a random sample of children and young people (aged 2 to 19 years) and their parents. In summer 2020, children (aged 11 to 16 years), young people (then aged 17 to 22 years) and parents (of those then aged 5 to 16 years) who had agreed to future research were invited to take part in an online follow up survey. Those who consented to future research in 2017 (and in 2020, 2021 and 2022, if they took part then) were contacted again in spring 2023 and invited to complete the wave 4 online or telephone follow up survey. The 2017 survey and the follow up surveys have all 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 were used to calculate the likelihood that the child or young person had a probable or possible mental disorder at the time they completed the questionnaire. Analysis in the report looks at the characteristics of children and young people with a “probable mental disorder” compared with those who were either “unlikely to have a mental disorder” or had a “possible mental disorder”. This survey is part of a series which provides England’s Official Statistics on trends in child mental health. It was commissioned by NHS England, with funding from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education. We collaborated with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter.