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PAS: Childhood Disability Rates Up 16 Percent in Past Decade

Lower rates of physical disability but higher rates of mental disability

MONDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Disability among children has increased in the last decade, particularly among children well above the poverty level; and, although disability rates due to physical conditions decreased, disability rates due to neurodevelopmental or mental conditions has increased, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 4 to 7 in Washington, D.C.

Amy J. Houtrow, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed data on 102,468 children up to 17 years old from the National Health Interview Surveys from 2001 to 2002 and 2009 to 2010 to assess trends in the prevalence of disability and underlying chronic conditions.

The researchers found that nearly six million children were classified as disabled in the most recent survey, a 16.3 percent increase. Although children living in poverty had the highest disability rates, significant increases in disability rates only occurred in children well above the federal poverty level (28.0 percent increase for 300 to 399 percent of the federal poverty level). There was a decline in disability rates due to physical conditions but an increase in disability rates due to neurodevelopmental/mental health conditions, particularly in children under 6 years of age (increase from 18.7 to 35.6 per 1,000).

"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," Houtrow said in a statement.

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