Key findings from the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing

David Lawrence, J. Hafekost, Sarah Johnson, S. Saw, W.J. Buckingham, M.G. Sawyer, J. Ainley, Stephen Zubrick

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Objective: To estimate the prevalence of mental disorders in children and adolescents in Australia, and the severity and impact of those mental disorders.

Method: Seven mental disorders were assessed using the parent- or carer-completed version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version IV, and major depressive disorder was also assessed using the youth self-report version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version IV. Severity and impact were assessed using an extended version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version IV impact on functioning questions, and days absent from school due to symptoms of mental disorders. Data were collected in a national face-to-face survey of 6310 parents or carers of children and adolescents aged 4–17 years, with 2969 young people aged 11–17 years also completing a self-report questionnaire.

Results: Twelve-month prevalence of mental disorders was 13.9%, with 2.1% of children and adolescents having severe disorders, 3.5% having moderate disorders and 8.3% having mild disorders. The most common class of disorders was attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder followed by anxiety disorders. Mental disorders were more common in step-, blended- or one-parent families, in families living in rented accommodation and families where one or both carers were not in employment. Mental disorders were associated with a substantial number of days absent from school particularly in adolescents.

Conclusion: Mental disorders are common in children and adolescents, often have significant impact and are associated with substantial absences from school. Child and adolescent mental disorders remain an important public health problem in Australia. Accurate information about prevalence and severity of child and adolescent mental disorders is an essential prerequisite for effective mental health policy and service planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalAustralian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2015


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