One in five children and teens in Ontario has a mental disorder, but less than one-third have had contact with a mental health care provider, according to the findings of the latest Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS).
The large-scale survey, called the 2014 OCHS for when data collection started, included 10,802 children and youth ages 4 to 17 in 6,537 families. It replicated and expanded on the landmark 1983 Ontario Child Health Study of 3,290 children in 1,869 families.
“This is a very robust study we feel represents the situation in Canada,” said Dr. Michael Boyle, co-principal investigator of the study. “That means there are more than a million Canadian children and youth with a mental health problem. This needs to be addressed.”
Overall, hyperactivity disorder in boys ages 4 to 11 jumped dramatically from 9 percent in the 1983 OCHS to 16 percent in the 2014 OCHS, and there was also a steep increase in anxiety and depression among both males and females, from 9 to 13 percent. However, disruptive behavior among males ages 12 to 16 saw a substantial drop, from 10 to 3 percent.
At the same time, there was a significant increase in perceptions of need for professional help with mental health disorders, rising from 7 percent in the 1983 OCHS to 19 percent in the 2014 OCHS. However, the authors say it is difficult to estimate whether this is tied to the rise in anti-stigma and mental health awareness campaigns over the past three decades.
In 30 years, the prevalence of any disorder increased in smaller communities with a population of 1,000 to 100,000, rather than large urban areas. There is also strong evidence that poor children are more likely to have a disorder if they live in a more violent neighborhood.
The research also found that in the past year more than 8 percent of youth thought about suicide, and 4 percent reported a suicide attempt.
“This study underscores the continued need for effective prevention and intervention programs,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Kathy Georgiades.
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has simultaneously published eight papers on different aspects of the 2014 OCHS results. According to the authors, the new findings represent an important advance in the understanding of child and youth mental health issues in Ontario, and it is very likely that many of the results can be generalized to other Canadian settings.
Source: McMaster University