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Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability

Section 3: Children and mental health disabilities

3.1. How many children and youth have mental or emotional problems or behavioral functional limitations?

The National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D) describes the U.S. population of children with mental or emotional problems, as well as selected behavioral functional limitations related to paying attention, school behavior and communicating and getting along with others. Children who had these problems or limitations were included in the "Disability Group," while those without were in the "Reference Group."

Using this data, 8.2% of civilian, non-institutionalized children age 5-17 years old in the United States (4.1 million children) were estimated to be in the "Disability Group." Of these children, 2.8 million are boys, while 1.3 million are girls.

Within the Disability Group, 54.3% (an estimated 2.2 million children) have functional limitations only, 32.8% (1.3 million) have functional limitations and mental or emotional problems, and 12.9% (529,000) have mental or emotional problems only.

More than 4.1 million children and youth have these problems or limitations, with more boys than girls reporting such disabilities.

Figure 15 (see data table for text-only version)

Figure 15: Percentage and number of children in Disability Group (by gender) and Reference Group, U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population, 5-17 years

Source: Colpe (2000)

Surveys: National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D), 1994-96

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