Issue: June 2020
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
May 13, 2020
1 min read

EDs see rise in pediatric visits for mental health disorders

Issue: June 2020
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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From 2007 to 2016, pediatric ED visits for all mental health disorders increased by 60% in the United States, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

For the study, Charmaine B. Lo, PhD, senior research scientist for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues analyzed data on patient demographics, mental health conditions and hospital ED characteristics from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, which includes information from around 20% of EDs in the U.S.

Over the 10-year study period, the 60% increase in ED visits by children for mental health disorders — including a 68% increase among children aged 15 to 17 years — coincided with a stable rate of overall pediatric visits to the ED, Lo and colleagues reported. Anxiety disorders increased by 117%, and impulse control disorders by 111%.

“I think for parents, the take-home message is pretty consistent with what they already know,” Lo told Healio. “Talk to your kids to be aware of if they have any concerns or they have any thoughts that they might be worried about, because there are resources available.”

All substance use disorders rose by 75%, but alcohol-related disorders decreased by 40%, according to the report.

“That was a little surprising,” Lo said. “I had read some literature that it was on the decrease, but to see this with my own data was very interesting. That makes me think that the rise in substance use is likely due to opioids, but that's just speculation, because we didn't look at that specifically.”

Visits to the ED increased significantly for deliberate self-harm, the data showed. In the 10-year span, these types of visits rose 329%. Rates for patients treated and released increased by 70%, whereas transfers to another facility increased by 134%.

“Strikingly, I was surprised by how much the prevalence of deliberate self-harm there was; it increased threefold,” Lo said.

Based on anecdotal reports, the researchers expected the data to show an increase in ED visits for mental health disorders, Lo said.

“Nothing in the literature had really substantiated a number that was up to date or current,” she said. “I guess we were we were expecting that. I do not think we were expecting how dramatic the increase was in certain subgroups.”