Largescale report published on the mental health of children and young people in England.
A report out last week from NHS Digital shows one in four 17 to 19 year olds in England had a probable mental disorder in 2022 – an increase from one in six in 2021.
The findings draw on a sample of 2,866 children and young people living in England between 7 and 24 years old to examine the mental health of these children and young people, as well as their experiences of education, employment and of life in their families and communities.
Hughes Hall Fellow, Professor Tamsin Ford, is part of the core research team conducting the study and has been involved in this series of national surveys since 1998, leading the clinical rating of the mental health diagnostic assessment, selecting questions, and producing the report, alongside colleagues at NatCen and ONS who conducted the analysis. The project was commissioned by NHS Digital on behalf of the English Department of Health.
We spoke to Professor Ford about what the findings mean and her hopes for the future as a result of this study:
“These data are a precious resource as they come from a carefully structured sample that were representative of children and young people aged 2 to 19 in 2017 so we have pre-pandemic and now post-pandemic data in 2020, 2021 and 2022 – next year we will conduct another follow up.”
“There is a lot of evidence that socio-economic deprivation undermines health (physical as well as mental) and there is no doubt that COVID-19 disrupted the lives of children and families hugely, and that their needs were largely absent from policy concerns for too long. So it is essential that this work in ongoing and these data are analysed further. There is so much more we could learn from the information provided by these children, young people and parents about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives.”
- In 2022, 18.0% of children aged 7 to 16 years and 22.0% of young people aged 17 to 24 years had a probable mental disorder.
- In children aged 7 to 16 years, rates rose from 1 in 9 (12.1%) in 2017 to 1 in 6 (16.7%) in 2020. Rates of probable mental disorder then remained stable between 2020 and 2022.
- In young people aged 17 to 19 years, rates of a probable mental disorder rose from 1 in 10 (10.1%) in 2017 to 1 in 6 (17.7%) in 2020 and then increased from 1 in 6 (17.4%) in 2021 to 1 in 4 (25.7%) in 2022.
- In 2022, among those aged 7 to 10, prevalence of a probable mental disorder was nearly twice as high in boys (19.7%) as in girls (10.5%). Rates of a probable mental disorder were similar in boys (18.8%) and girls (22.0%) aged 11 to 16. Among 17 to 24 year olds, the prevalence was much higher in young women (31.2%) than young men (13.3%).
- 11 to 16 year olds with a probable mental disorder were less likely to feel safe at school (61.2%) than those unlikely to have a mental disorder (89.2%). They were also less likely to report enjoyment of learning or having a friend they could turn to for support.
- 1 in 8 (12.6%) 11 to 16 year old social media users reported that they had been bullied online. This was more than 1 in 4 (29.4%) among those with a probable mental disorder.
- 11 to 16 year old social media users with a probable mental disorder were less likely to report feeling safe online (48.4%) than those unlikely to have a disorder (66.5%).
- 1 in 5 (19.9%) 7 to 16 year olds lived in households that experienced a reduction in household income in the past year. This was more than 1 in 4 (28.6%) among children with a probable mental disorder
- Among 17 to 22 year olds with a probable mental disorder, 14.8% reported living in a household that had experienced not being able to buy enough food or using a food bank in the past year, compared with 2.1% of young people unlikely to have a mental disorder.
Professor Ford and the research team are committed to broadening the scope of the work whilst also exploring key recurrent themes in more depth:
“We are seeking funding to add diagnostic assessments for eating disorders onto wave 4, as there has been a large and worrying increase in the numbers of young people seeking help with these – we are also engaging in focus groups and a survey with parents and young people about what topics we should include in the next survey in 2024.”
“This work is critical to meeting the mental health needs of children and young people – you can help us to develop our surveys and learn more about the risk factors impacting young lives – so we can provide essential information to local and national government for future policymaking.”
Can you support the next wave of research
The team need your help for the 2023 National Study of Health and Wellbeing: Children and Young People to and Tamsin would love to hear from anyone who can spare few minutes:
“We would like your views about the most important topics or issues around the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, and the questions that we should be asking in the next study to children, young people and parents.”
“We are looking for young people aged between 11 and 25, and parents and carers of children and young people, to complete a short anonymous online survey to give their views. Your responses will help us decide what topics we should ask about in more detail.”
Please fill out this short, anonymous online form here https://cutt.ly/helpus to help the research team reflect the most important and up-to-date concerns, changes and factors in the next wave of this research. The Universities of Exeter and Cambridge are working with NatCen Social Research, the Office for National Statistics and NHS Digital to gather your feedback.
- This report presents findings from the third (wave 3) in a series of follow up reports to the 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey, conducted in 2022. The sample includes 2,866 of the children and young people who took part in the MHCYP 2017 survey.
- Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK in March 2020, children and young people have experienced major changes in their lives. These have affected their family situation as well as their access to education, leisure and other services.
- The first and second follow ups to the 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey in England took place in 2020 (wave 1) and 2021 (wave 2) respectively and provided insight on the initial impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and young people.
- In February 2022, most of the domestic measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19 were removed. This survey (wave 3) took place during April and May 2022.
- This study was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, commissioned by NHS Digital, and carried out by the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, University of Cambridge and University of Exeter.
- For the NHS Digital news piece:
- For the full report: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2022-follow-up-to-the-2017-survey
- For the previous publications on the longer term survey: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england
- For the data sets: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2022-follow-up-to-the-2017-survey/data-sets