A Stony Brook University professor has published the findings of a new study which show a steep spike in hospitalizations for psychiatric disorders among children and adolescents, the university announced last week.
Dr. Joseph C. Blader, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the university, published the study in the online edition of “Archives of General Psychiatry,” and will also appear in its December print edition.
The study looked at data collected over a 12-year period ending in 2007. It found that hospitalizations of children, defined as 5 to 13 years old, increased by 81 percent over the period, while that of adolescents aged 14 to 19 years increased by almost 42 percent.
Rates among adults increased by a much smaller margin: eight percent. Rates among the elderly declined by 17.5 percent, the report stated.
Blader is quoted by the university explaining that the study represents, “significant developments in mental health treatment in the United States with potentially strong ramifications for quality of care and service financing.”
He pointed out that short-stay hospitalizations increased from 1970 through the 1990’s as long-term commitments declined.
Other factors, he wrote, may include payers looking to reduce expenditures for such care and a shift by mental health policy makers and advocates toward alternative treatments that aren’t as restrictive and stigmatizing as hospitalization can be.
“The fact that this recent rise occurred despite pressures toward minimizing hospitalizations for psychiatric illness suggests that rising hospitalization rates for youth more likely correspond to clinical need rather than overuse,” wrote Blader.
The study also found shifts in primary diagnoses. There was an increase in bipolar disorder diagnoses, according to the report, but a decline in that of anxiety disorders. Substance abuse rates remained the same, with about 30 percent of adult psychiatric patients having a secondary diagnosis of substance abuse.