Over 2.5 Million US Kids Diagnosed With Anxiety and Depression

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca H. Bitsko, PhD

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities(https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/index.html) (NCBDDD) is committed to helping children who have mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Anxiety and depression are both internalizing mental disorders that often start during childhood, and that frequently occur together.

In this study, we show that more than 1 in 20, or 2.6 million, US children aged 6-17 had a current diagnosis of anxiety or depression, by parent report, in 2011-12. We also found an increase of diagnosed anxiety in these children from 1 in 28 in 2007 to 1 in 24 in 2011-12.

Further, in 2011-12, approximately 1 in 5 children with current anxiety or depression did not receive mental health treatment in the past year.

Children with current anxiety or depression were more likely than those without to have:

  • Another mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder such as ADHD, learning disability, or speech or language problems
  • School problems
  • Parents who report high levels of stress and frustration with parenting
  • Unmet medical and mental health service needs

 MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: We found that a large number, 2.6 million US children, between the ages of 6 and 17 years old in 2011-12 had diagnosed anxiety and depression. We saw an increase of the two conditions together from 2003 to 2011-12, and an increase of diagnosed anxiety specifically, from 1 in 28 in 2007 to 1 in 24 (2 million) in 2011-12. 

Children with anxiety and depression may have needs that go beyond diagnosis and mental health treatment. Anxiety and depression are associated with school problems, parenting stress, and unmet medical needs. Parents, healthcare providers, and teachers can look for ways to support children with anxiety and depression in all areas of the child’s life. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: We will continue to monitor trends in the prevalence of diagnosed anxiety and depression using the National Survey of Children’s Health, which is being conducted annually since 2016.

We are also conducting a community-based study, the “Project to Learn About Youth – Mental Health (PLAY-MH) to learn more about anxiety and depression regardless of whether children already have a diagnoses. PLAY-MH is also looking more at externalizing disorders (like ADHD), and tic disorders (like Tourette syndrome) in children and adolescents. PLAY-MH will provide information to plan public health prevention and intervention strategies that support children’s health and development.

We would like to learn more about why 1 in 5 children with anxiety or depression were not receiving mental health treatment. We would also like to better understand the reason for the increase in diagnosed anxiety, which we cannot determine using the cross-sectional data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Healthcare providers should be aware that anxiety and depression are common in both boys and girls and assess for these conditions, as appropriate. Because anxiety and depression can occur along with other conditions, such as ADHD, learning disabilities, or speech or language problems, other conditions should be considered among children with anxiety and depression.

Parents who are concerned that their child may have anxiety and/or depression should talk to their child’s pediatrician or other healthcare provider.

 Any disclosures? I, Rebecca Bitsko, have no disclosures.






  1. Rebecca H. Bitsko, Joseph R. Holbrook, Reem M. Ghandour, Stephen J. Blumberg, Susanna N. Visser, Ruth Perou, John T. Walkup. Epidemiology and Impact of Health Care Provider–Diagnosed Anxiety and Depression Among US ChildrenJournal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2018; 1 DOI: 1097/DBP.0000000000000571



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Last Updated on May 4, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD