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July 25, 2017

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One in three children in Taiwan will have a mental disorder: study

Nearly one-third of children in Taiwan have mental health problems, with 3.1 percent having had suicidal thoughts within the past six months, a first-of-its-kind study has found.

Among all mental illnesses, the most commonly experienced at any point in childhood by children and adolescents in Taiwan was found to be ADHD (11.1 percent), followed by nightmare disorder (8.8 percent), phobia (6.4 percent), conduct disorder (4.4 percent), separation anxiety disorder (3.3 percent), oppositional defiant disorder (1.9 percent) and social anxiety disorder (1.8 percent).

One percent of children were suspected to be on the autism spectrum to a degree worthy of professional attention, the study found.

In addition, the lifetime prevalence of suicidal thoughts was found to be 7.9 percent. The six-month prevalence was 3.1 percent, meaning that 310 in every 100,000 children had thought about killing themselves in the six months prior to the study.

The rate was significantly higher among children with lower social status living in highly urbanized areas.

Overall, 28.7 percent of children were found to have a condition deserving professional assessment and assistance.

Although high, the figure is similar to that reported in Western studies, the Central News Agency reported. But mental health problems can still have serious effects on children and adolescents' development, emotions and behavior.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare commissioned professor Shu-Fen Kao from National Taiwan University's College of Medicine to carry out the three-year school-based investigation.

Kao said matching the results with National Health Insurance data revealed that most children who have a mental condition are not receiving a proper diagnosis or treatment.

She suggested that the government conduct further research, particularly into the health of children aged 12-18, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation, and that it provide assistance as soon as possible.

The study examined 10,122 students from 35 schools throughout 15 cities, counties and municipalities. It is the first national epidemiological study of its kind on mental disorders among Taiwanese children, according to the Central News Agency.

The China Post intern Yvonne Huang contributed in the article.

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