Study Finds More Children Being Hospitalized for Mental Illnesses

Between the years of 1996 and 2007, short-stay hospitalizations of children with mental illnesses increased greatly.

Between the years of 1996 and 2007, short-stay hospitalizations of children with mental illnesses increased greatly, while psychiatric admissions among the elderly declined in that period.

Hospital admissions for children between the ages of five and thirteen shot up to 81% between 1996 to 2007; the study found the increase was from 156 per 100,000 children in the general population each year to 283 per 100,000 children.

The researchers also found that the admission rate of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 rose by 8%, while the rate of acute psychiatric admissions for teenagers between the ages of fourteen and nineteen was nearing the rate for adults by the year 2007, increasing by almost 42%.

Acute psychiatric hospitalization for persons over the age of 65, however, decreased by 17.5%.

Study author Joseph C. Blader, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, reported that "a substantial increase in acute care psychiatric hospitalization rates and inpatient occupancy for children and adolescents, a moderate increase in the hospitalization rate of adults, and a steep decline for elderly individuals represent significant developments in mental health treatment in the United States with potentially strong ramifications for quality of care and service financing.”

Blader continued to state that the "fact that this recent rise occurred despite pressures toward minimizing hospitalizations for psychiatric illness suggests that rising hospitalization rates for youth more likely correspond to clinical need rather than overuse.”

The researchers assessed data from the National Center for Health Statistics on short-stay (less than thirty days) hospitalization trends for psychiatric patients.

The study authors noted that, during the decade being studied, private insurance reimbursements declined, but coverage from government sources increased.

Further, they found that short hospital stays increased for psychiatric conditions, but long-term psychiatric hospitalization experienced a decline from the year 1970 throughout the 1990s.

The study was published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry, and will appear in the journal's December print edition.