Childhood disability rate jumps 16 percent over past decade

More children today have a disability than a decade ago, and the greatest increase is among kids in higher-income families, according to a study to be presented Sunday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The study also found that related to physical health conditions have decreased, while disabilities due to neurodevelopmental and have increased greatly.

"Nearly 6 million kids had a disability in 2009-2010—almost 1 million more than in 2001-2002," said lead author Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, chief, Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Houtrow said previous studies have indicated that the prevalence of childhood disability is increasing. She and her colleagues wanted to look more closely at the conditions and socio-demographic factors associated with disabilities.

The researchers analyzed data from the National conducted by the in 2001-2002 and survey data from 2009-2010. A total of 102,468 parents of children ages 0-17 years participated in the surveys.

Parents were asked whether their child had any limitations in play or activity, received special education services, needed help with personal care, had difficulty walking without equipment, had difficulty with memory or had any other limitation.

If they answered yes to any of those questions, they were asked whether their child's limitations were due to a vision or hearing problem; asthma or breathing problem; joint, bone or muscle problem; intellectual deficit or mental retardation; emotional or behavior problems; epilepsy; ; speech problems; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; birth defect; injury or other developmental problem.

Researchers classified conditions into three groups: physical, neurodevelopmental/mental health and other.

Results showed that the prevalence of disability increased 16.3 percent from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010.

While neurodevelopmental and mental health-related disabilities increased, those due to physical conditions decreased. This trend was most notable among children under 6 years of age whose rate of neurodevelopmental disabilities nearly doubled over the study period from 19 cases to 36 cases per 1,000 children.

"The survey did not break out autism, but we suspect that some of the increase in neurodevelopmental disabilities is due to the rising incidence or recognition of autism spectrum disorders," Dr. Houtrow said.

The data also showed that children living in poverty experienced the highest rates of disability at both time periods but not the highest growth. The largest increase was seen among children living in households with incomes at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level (about $66,000 a year for a family of four).

"We are worried that those living in poverty may be having problems with being diagnosed and getting services," Dr. Houtrow said.

Since the study could not pinpoint why the disability rate is increasing, more research is needed, she concluded.

More information: To view the abstract, "Childhood Disability Trends, 2000-2010," go to www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS13L1_2600.3

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Impact of caring for adult child with disability studied

Dec 17, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Caring for an adult child with developmental disabilities or mental illness increased by 38 percent the chances that an aging parent would develop disabilities of their own, according to findings of a new ...

Reports of mental health disability increase in US

Sep 23, 2011

The prevalence of self-reported mental health disabilities increased in the U.S. among non-elderly adults during the last decade, according to a study by Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Huge hospital burden for kids with intellectual disability

Mar 01, 2013

New research from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has shown that children with an intellectual disability or autism are up to ten times more likely to be admitted to hospital than unaffected children.

Recommended for you

Bowel illnesses sometimes coincide in kids

Apr 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Children suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are four times more likely than other kids to have a condition called celiac disease—an allergy to gluten—Italian researchers report.

Too little sleep may add to teen health problems

Apr 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Many teens from lower- and middle-income homes get too little sleep, potentially adding to the problems of kids already at risk for health issues, new research finds.

User comments