Although the the number of cases of physical disabilities fell 12 percent, mental and neurodevelopmental health disabilities was up 21 percent. There was especially a large increase in neurodevelopmental conditions, like ADHD and autism.
Researchers collected data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2001-2002 and 2010-2011. In this survey, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire asking if their children had any health disadvantages, such as ADHD, speech and language disabilities, and emotional or behavioral problems. The research shows that children from poorer families had the highest rates of disabilities, but children from more affluent families also saw a big increase, 28.4 percent.
These results could stem from a variety of reasons, like a difference in environmental experiences or different stresses. The exact cause of this trend hasn't been studied yet.
This study is not the first to notice a rise in mental disabilities in children. A report published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. That's up 30 percent from two years ago, when the rate was 1 in 88.
Dr. Amy Houtrow, chief of the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, told CNN, "It's a call to action to the health care system and a call for additional research. And it's a call to action to parents to be concerned about their child's development. ... Healthy children grow up to be healthy adults. Knowing how to better treat our younger generation is important to this country's future."