Child admissions to psychiatric units up by a quarter

Child admissions to psychiatric units up by a quarter

Depression remains the most common diagnosis among children, followed by neurosis, eating disorders and schizophrenia. Picture: File image

The number of children and adolescents admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals here has increased by almost a quarter it has emerged.

Latest figures from the Health Research Board show the number of psychiatric in-patient admissions under 18 years old increased from 408 in 2018 to 497 last year.

They also show that almost one in five (17%) of the young people admitted were aged 14 years or younger.

Depression remains the most common diagnosis among children, followed by neurosis, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

There has been a decrease in the number of children admitted to adult psychiatric units and hospitals.

Of the 497 children admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals last year, 443 were admitted to child and adolescent psychiatric units, an increase from 324 in 2018.

While 54 children were admitted to adult psychiatric units and hospitals, it was a decrease from 84 in 2018.

Depressive disorders accounted for 157 admissions, while neurosis accounted for 80. 

There were 54 children diagnosed with eating disorders and 51 with schizophrenia.

Females accounted for nine-in-ten admissions with eating disorders and males accounted for nine-in-ten admissions with what the HRB describes as “other drug disorders”.

The HRB explains that other drug disorders include mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use but excludes mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use.

It found that 84% of the admissions for under 18s last year were discharged during the same year.

HRB research officer, Antoinette Daly, said the latest figures are consistent with the overall increase in admissions among under 18s over the past decade.

“This increase could reflect an increase in the number of places, a real increase in admissions or a combination of both,” she said.

It is good to see a decrease in admissions of under 18s to adult units, with a 67% reduction in the number of children being admitted to adult units, from 163 in 2010 to 54 in 2019.

Ms Daly said young females outnumber young males in most diagnostic categories, in particular for eating disorder, of which 96% of admissions were female.

Overall, there were 16,710 admissions to Irish psychiatric units and hospitals last year, a decrease from 17,000 in 2018.

Males accounted for just over half of all admissions (51%) and while the average age of those admitted was 43, the 20-24 age group had the highest overall rate of admissions.

The HRB found that people admitted were more likely to be single, unemployed and diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

There were 2,351 admissions last year that were involuntary, an increase from 2,225 admissions in 2018.

A slight decrease was recorded in the number of patients admitted with no fixed abode, with 297 reported last year, compared to 306 in 2018.

Ms Daly said people admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals last year were more likely to be unemployed young adults with a depressive disorder.

Stressing the importance of monitoring trends, she pointed out that patients with no fixed abode are more likely to be males aged between 35 and 44 with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other drug disorders.

There was a slight decrease in the number of deaths, from 137 in 2018 to 127 last year, with males accounting for almost two-thirds (61%) of deaths. 

Eight-in-ten deaths were aged 65 years and over.

Discharge records show that 92% of all admissions last year were discharged during the same year.

“A positive trend identified by the HRB is that length of stay has been declining considerably over the past decade, from an average of 82.7 days in 2010 to 64.2 days in 2019,” said Ms Daly.

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