Child Disability Rates Offered Surprises

Developmental disability rates among children increased while physical disabilities declined

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) One of the national surveys that investigates health conditions in children also tracks disability rates. And a recent study found a surprising trend in those rates.

It appears that the child disability rate is increasing overall, but it's particularly increasing among children in higher income homes.

At the same time, however, the highest overall rate of disability still remained among children in lower income homes.

Another trend seen was a decrease in physical disabilities alongside an increase in developmental and mental health disabilities.

"Ask your pediatrician about developmental milestones."

The study, led by Amy Houtrow, MD, of the Department of Physical Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, looked at how the rate of disabilities has changed among children.

The researchers analyzed data from four National Health Interview Surveys, from 2001 through 2011, involving 198,888 children.

Over this time, the rate of disabilities in children gradually increased 16 percent.

Almost 6 million children had some form of disability in the 2010-2011 survey, the researchers found.

The highest rates of disability occurred among children living in poverty, at a rate of 103 cases per 1,000 children in 2010-2011.

However, the largest increase of disability actually occurred among children at the other end of the income spectrum.

Among children living in a home with a household income at least 400 percent above the federal poverty level, the rate of disability increased 28 percent during this decade.

There were also changes seen in the types of disability among children.

Disabilities related to physical health conditions decreased 12 percent while developmental and mental health disabilities increased 21 percent.

The researchers expressed surprise that the disability rate among  higher income children had increased.

This is the first time the rate has increased among children in higher income homes since records began for disability rates in 1957.

"This unexpected finding highlights the need to better understand the social, medical, and environmental factors influencing parent reports of childhood disability," the researchers wrote.

The study was published Aug. 18 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by National Institutes of Health National Institute Child Health Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 17, 2014
Last Updated:
August 18, 2014