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Time trends in symptoms of mental illness in children and adolescents in Canada

TitleTime trends in symptoms of mental illness in children and adolescents in Canada
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMcMartin, S. E., Kingsbury M., Dykxhoorn J., and Colman I.
JournalCanadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)
Volume186
PagesE672 - E678
Abstract

Background: Existing research and media reports convey conflicting impressions of trends in the prevalence of mental illness. We sought to investigate trends in the prevalence of symptoms of mental illness in a large population-based cohort of Canadian children and adolescents. Methods: We obtained population-based data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Every 2 years, participants completed self-reported measures of mental illness indicators, including conduct disorder, hyperactivity, indirect aggression, suicidal behaviour, and depression and anxiety. We analyzed trends in mean scores over time using linear regression. Results: We evaluated 11 725 participants aged 10-11 years from cycles 1 (1994/95) through 6 (2004/05), 10 574 aged 12-13 years from cycles 2 (1996/97) through 7 (2006/07), and 9835 aged 14-15 years from cycles 3 (1998/99) through 8 (2008/09). The distribution of scores on depression and anxiety, conduct and indirect aggression scales remained stable or showed small decreases over time for participants of all ages. The mean hyperactivity score increased over time in participants aged 10-11 years (change per 2-year cycle: 0.16, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.12) and those aged 12-13 years (0.13, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.18). Over time, fewer participants aged 12-13 years (0.40% per cycle, 95% CI -0.78 to -0.07) and aged 14-15 years (0.56% per cycle, 95% CI -0.91 to -0.23) reported attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. Interpretation: With the exception of hyperactivity, the prevalence of symptoms of mental illness in Canadian children and adolescents has remained relatively stable from 1994/95 to 2008/09. Conflicting reports of escalating rates of mental illness in Canada may be explained by differing methodologies between studies, an increase in treatment-seeking behaviour, or changes in diagnostic criteria or practices.

URLhttp://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/18/E672.abstract
DOI10.1503/cmaj.140064
Document URLhttp://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/18/E672.full.pdf