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Germany: 1 in 4 children suffers from mental illness

Kristie Pladson
November 22, 2019

Data from a health insurer reveals that every fourth child in Germany suffers from mental illness. Many end up staying in a hospital, with the average stay lasting more than a month.

A stock image of a sad girl
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

One in four children in Germany suffers from mental illness, a new study of patient data from German health insurance company DAK released Thursday revealed.

The survey of child and teenager mental health was based on data collected from 800,000 children insured by DAK in 2016 and 2017.

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Alarming results

The data indicated that 24% of children display psychological anomalies. Just under 2% of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are diagnosed with depression and 2.2% with an anxiety disorder.

According to DAK, extrapolating their patient data onto Germany's total population of 10- to 17-year-olds would mean a total of 238,000 children suffering from these conditions.

The data also showed that the rate of child depression was up 5% in 2017 from the year before.

Mental illness ranks fifth among common child illnesses, behind respiratory illnesses, infections, and eye and skin problems. Depression only makes up a small share of mental illnesses, with developmental and behavioral conditions accounting for the bulk of this category.

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Helping Germany's poor children

Girls more susceptible

Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression, with a distinct divergence in the data starting at age 14.

Some 17% of young patients were prescribed anti-depressive medication in 2017. Up to 8% of those affected ended up being treated in a clinic, with the average stay lasting 39 days. About a quarter of these patients will return to the clinic for further treatment.

"Clearly we have gaps in treatment following hospital stays that we urgently need to close. A rehospitalization rate of 24% is alarming," said DAK president Andreas Storm.

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Children with chronic physical problems are significantly more likely to suffer from depression, as are children with parents who are themselves mentally ill or who suffer from an addiction. 

"Certain school children have a higher risk for depression. These children often suffer quietly before they receive an appropriate diagnosis. We all have to pay more attention," said Storm, "whether within our families, at school, or in our clubs."

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