Childhood mental disorders are more common than many think

April 8, 2024

To estimate the percentage of children with mental disorders, the Children’s Health Policy Centre analyzed data from nearly 62,000 young people contained in 14 high-quality studies. We found that 12.7% of children, or approximately one in eight, met diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder at any given time. In BC, this means approximately 95,000 young people currently meet criteria for a mental disorder, making the burden high across the province. And many children carry an even higher burden as 26.5% of young people with disorders had two or more concurrently.

We also calculated prevalence for 12 of the most common disorders or disorder groups. Anxiety disorders topped the list at 5.2%. Other common problems included attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, 3.7%), oppositional defiant disorder (3.3%), any substance use disorder (2.3%), major depressive disorder (1.3%) and conduct disorder (1.3%). For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.