Many children not receiving needed mental health services, study finds

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Monday, October 18, 2010

Of nearly 7.4 million children in the United States diagnosed with emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions, a disproportionate number do not get the mental health services they need because they are underinsured, according to a new report released by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  The study also finds that boys, adolescents, and children from low-income families are affected by conditions such as depression or Attention Deficit Disorder at higher rates than other children, but that adequate health services for these children remain an unmet need.  

The report, “The Mental and Emotional Well-Being of Children: A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007,” identified seven emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions: depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorders, developmental delay and Tourette Syndrome. Children with these conditions can benefit from a variety of therapies including counseling and medication.

”Accessing mental health services has always been a challenge,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield Ph.D., R.N. “HRSA is committed to ensuring that mental health is fully integrated into primary health care, and we’re working diligently to address the challenge of meeting the mental health needs of America’s children in vulnerable and underserved communities.”

Additional findings include:

  • 11.3 percent (nearly 7.4 million) of children in the United States are reported by their parents to have been diagnosed with emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions.
    • Nearly two-thirds (65.7 percent) are boys
    • More than half (51.1 percent) are between the ages of 12 and 17 years
    • Nearly one-quarter (24.8 percent) have family incomes below the Federal poverty level
    • One-third of these children have also been diagnosed with a chronic physical condition
  • 29.4 percent of diagnosed children with insurance were reported by their parents to have insurance that did not usually or always meet their needs.
  • 40.3 percent of diagnosed children have more than one emotional, behavioral, or developmental condition.
  • 45.8 percent of children with one or more emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions also had learning disabilities, compared to 2.7 percent of children without these conditions.

The National Survey of Children’s Health is sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Technical appendices at the end of the report present information about the survey methodology, sample and the specific questions that were asked about emotional, behavioral, and developmental conditions. See more in-depth information about the survey and its findings.


The Health Resources and Services Administration is part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA is the primary federal agency responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. For more information about HRSA and its programs, visit

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2017