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Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 11:07 GMT
One in 10 children mentally disturbed
One in 10 children may suffer from a mental problem

As many as 10% of children and adolescents have some sort of mental disorder, according to the first ever government survey.

The high rates are bound to increase fears that levels of mental problems are soaring among the young.

The research, published by the Office of National Statistics, included emotional, behavioural and overactivity disorders.

But one in 20 children in the UK have a "clinically significant" disorder, with more boys than girls being identified.

It was also revealed that children born into the lowest social class families were about three times more likely to have problems.

An estimated 15% of social class V (parents unskilled workers) have a disorder, as opposed to approximately 5% of children born to "professional" class parents.

Lower levels of family income were also linked to an increased risk of having a child with a mental disorder.

There were no significant differences between England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The survey reveals that almost 30% of those found to have mental disorders have not consulted a GP or a hospital doctor such as a paediatrician or child psychiatrist for help with their problems.

This backs an earlier Audit Commission report which suggested that child mental health services in the UK were "patchy", with the quality of treatment dependant on the area involved.

Child mental health charity YoungMinds described the report as "immensely valuable".

A spokesman said: "It confirms our long held view that at least 10% of children aged between five and 15 years are suffering from a a mental disorder.

"In addition there are many more who are suffering considerable mental distress which may develop into a diagnosable disorder if they do not receive help."

"Public policy makers need to consider carefully why so many children are experiencing mental health problems."

Interviews with parents and children

The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 10,500 parents of children aged five to 15, and 4,500 children aged 11 to 15.

Emotional disorders include a wide range of problems such as over-anxiety, phobias, social phobias, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive behaviour and depression.

Behavioural disorders include awkward, troublesome, aggressive and antisocial behaviours.

The full report is due to be released in Spring 2000
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See also:
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