Mental health concerns accounted for more than 25% of hospital days for children and adolescents in 2019, according to an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.

The study, led by researchers from Dartmouth, found that about 1 in 6 youths had a mental health condition, as of 2019.

The researchers reported that “19.7% of mental health hospitalizations were experienced by children with diagnoses in four or more unique mental health disorder groups, increasing significantly to 42.4% in 2019.”

The study quotes that year’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, finding that for children and youths ages 3-17, suicide was the second leading cause of death. It was estimated 18.8% of youths seriously considered suicide the previous year.

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Mental health hospitalizations with an attempted suicide or self-injury among children ages 3-17 went from 3.5% in 2009 to 12.7% in 2019 — the rate more than tripling in a 10-year span.

Researchers used data collected from 2009-2019 using the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Disorders Classification System. This system “classifies child mental health disorders across coding systems and aligns with DSM-5 psychiatric diagnosis groups,” per the National Library of Medicine.

The article said that, overall, “annual hospitalizations for mental health diagnoses increased from 160,499 in 2009 to 201,932 in 2019.”

Hospitalizations that were paired with a diagnosis of attempted suicide or self-injury also increased from 49,285 in 2009 to 129,699 in 2019 — making up 64% of mental health hospitalizations in 2019.

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Children’s mental health

The study said factors that might be contributing to the increase in hospitalizations connected to suicide or self-injury might include:

  • Social instability.
  • Conflict within the home, with family or with peers.
  • A growing number of mental health conditions.
  • Too-few mental health professionals.

The Deseret News has reported regularly on research that shows correlation between social media use and mental health in young people. Per one perspective piece, “Research conducted by the University of Utah Huntsman Mental Health Institute shows that young adults who use social media are three times as likely to suffer from depression.”

The article added that from 2010-2014, hospital admissions for self-harm in girls ages 10-14 almost doubled.

“Utah recently passed two social media bills which will provide protection for our children, more parental controls, and increased accountability for social media companies,” per the Deseret News.