Number of ‘anxious’ kids skyrockets

ONE News 6 Jan 2013
The rate of children diagnosed by a doctor with mental health conditions has almost doubled over the past five years.

A suicide prevention advocate has slammed the results as bad science and says the definition of a “normal child” has narrowed too far.

However, child psychology experts say the increasing rate could be a symptom of a more anxiety-driven society and improvements in the diagnosis of youngsters.

About 25,000 children have been diagnosed with behavioural and emotional problems, with anxiety the fastest growing condition, according to the Ministry of Health’s latest children’s health report.

Anxiety, ADHD and depression are the three most common disorders in children, and boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems.

Casper chief executive Maria Bradshaw said she was horrified to hear of babies now being diagnosed as depressed.

She founded suicide prevention group Casper after her teenage son took his life just two weeks after being prescribed prozac for depression.

“It really worries me how narrow the definition of normal is becoming. We used to accept a wide range of behaviour from two-year-olds and talked about the terrible-twos.

“Now a lack of concentration is a conduct disorder. Parents are scared their children are not going to function at school so they accept these labels.”

The percentage of children with diagnosed mental health conditions jumped from 1.8% to 3.2% since 2007-08. Increasing numbers of children with anxiety, such as phobias, drove the increase, according to the Ministry of Health report.

More than 15,500 children are diagnosed with anxiety, up from 2800 children five years ago.