Conclusion: Mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders are as common among young people as among adults. The majority of adults with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder first experienced a disorder while young, and first symptoms precede the full-blown disorder, providing an opportunity for prevention and early intervention.

As discussed in more detail in Chapter 9, MEB disorders impose a heavy national burden of disability. Early emotional and behavioral problems predict school failure, unplanned pregnancy, and crime. MEB disorders are not well tracked by the mortality statistics that are among the few monitoring tools available in the United States. Other tools are needed, including regular household surveys and surveys of institutions, such as hospitals and prisons, where rates of mental illness are high. The United States supports several household and school-based surveys suitable for this purpose. Although these provide very detailed coverage of drug use and abuse, they have many limitations in the area of mental illness, particularly for younger populations, and they are sketchy in their measurement of risk. Data specific to the United States come from a patchwork of small, local studies.

Conclusion: Although the United States collects rich data related to drug use and abuse, systematic data related to the prevalence and incidence of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders in young people are sparse.

It is notable that the Foundation for Child Development’s annual Child Well-Being Index,4 which has been charting trends in child well-being since 1975, because data are not available, includes only one measure related to MEB disorders: the teenage suicide rate. Similarly, given the limitations of available data, the only national indicators related to MEB disorders reported by the federal Forum on Child and Family Statistics5 are alcohol and drug use and the percentage of children ages 4-17 reported by their parent as having serious emotional or behavioral difficulties.6 The forum is planning to add an indicator related to adolescent depression using data collected in NSDUH.

Recommendation 2-1: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should be required to provide (1) annual data on the prevalence of






The indicator is based on a parental response to one question from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and does not provide information about any diagnosis.

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