Skip to main content Accesibility Help

The global coverage of prevalence data for mental disorders in children and adolescents

  • H. E. Erskine (a1) (a2) (a3), A. J. Baxter (a1) (a2), G. Patton (a4) (a5), T. E. Moffitt (a6) (a7), V. Patel (a8) (a9), H. A. Whiteford (a1) (a2) (a3) and J. G. Scott (a2) (a10) (a11)...

Children and adolescents make up almost a quarter of the world's population with 85% living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Globally, mental (and substance use) disorders are the leading cause of disability in young people; however, the representativeness or ‘coverage’ of the prevalence data is unknown. Coverage refers to the proportion of the target population (ages 5–17 years) represented by the available data.


Prevalence data for conduct disorder (CD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), eating disorders (EDs), depression, and anxiety disorders were sourced from systematic reviews conducted for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) and 2013 (GBD 2013). For each study, the location proportion was multiplied by the age proportion to give study coverage. Location proportion was calculated by dividing the total study location population by the total country population. Age proportion was calculated by dividing the population of the country aged within the age range of the study sample by the country population aged 5–17 years. If a study only sampled one sex, study coverage was halved. Coverage across studies was then summed for each country to give coverage by country. This method was repeated at the region and global level, and separately for GBD 2013 and GBD 2010.


Mean global coverage of prevalence data for mental disorders in ages 5–17 years was 6.7% (CD: 5.0%, ADHD: 5.5%, ASDs: 16.1%, EDs: 4.4%, depression: 6.2%, anxiety: 3.2%). Of 187 countries, 124 had no data for any disorder. Many LMICs were poorly represented in the available prevalence data, for example, no region in sub-Saharan Africa had more than 2% coverage for any disorder. While coverage increased between GBD 2010 and GBD 2013, this differed greatly between disorders and few new countries provided data.


The global coverage of prevalence data for mental disorders in children and adolescents is limited. Practical methodology must be developed and epidemiological surveys funded to provide representative prevalence estimates so as to inform appropriate resource allocation and support policies that address mental health needs of children and adolescents.

Corresponding author
* Address for correspondence: H. E. Erskine, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, The Park – Centre for Mental Health, Locked Bag 500, Archerfield QLD 4108, Australia. (Email:
Hide All
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC.
Baxter, AJ, Patton, G, Scott, KM, Degenhardt, L, Whiteford, HA (2013 a). Global epidemiology of mental disorders: what are we missing? PLoS ONE 8.
Baxter, AJ, Scott, KM, Vos, T, Whiteford, HA (2013 b). Global prevalence of anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-regression. Psychological Medicine 43, 897910.
Baxter, AJ, Brugha, TS, Erskine, HE, Scheurer, RW, Vos, T, Scott, JG (2014). The epidemiology and global burden of autism spectrum disorders. Psychological Medicine First View, 113.
Bor, W, Dean, AJ, Najman, J, Hayatbakhsh, R (2014). Are child and adolescent mental health problems increasing in the 21st century? A systematic review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 48, 606616.
Calleja, JM, Walker, N, Cuchi, P, Lazzari, S, Ghys, PD, Zacarias, F (2002). Status of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and methods to monitor it in the Latin America and Caribbean region. AIDS 16, S3S12.
Charlson, FJ, Ferrari, AJ, Flaxman, AD, Whiteford, HA (2013). The epidemiological modelling of dysthymia: application for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Journal of Affective Disorders 151, 111120.
Collishaw, S, Maughan, B, Goodman, R, Pickles, A (2004). Time trends in adolescent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45, 13501362.
Erskine, HE, Ferrari, AJ, Nelson, P, Polanczyk, GV, Flaxman, AD, Vos, T, Whiteford, HA, Scott, JG (2013). Research review: epidemiological modelling of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54, 12631274.
Erskine, HE, Moffitt, TE, Copeland, WE, Costello, EJ, Ferrari, AJ, Patton, G, Degenhardt, L, Vos, T, Whiteford, HA, Scott, JG (2015). A heavy burden on young minds: the global burden of mental and substance use disorders in children and youth. Psychological Medicine 45, 15511563.
Ferrari, AJ, Somerville, AJ, Baxter, AJ, Norman, R, Patten, SB, Vos, T, Whiteford, HA (2013). Global variation in the prevalence and incidence of major depressive disorder: a systematic review of the epidemiological literature. Psychological Medicine 43, 471481.
Hien, NT, Long, HT, Chi, PK, van Ameijden, EJC, Deville, W, Wolffers, I (1999). HIV monitoring in vietnam: system, methodology, and results of sentinel surveillance. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 21, 338346.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2015 a). Call for Collaborators. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation: Seattle, WA.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2015 b). What Countries are in Each Region? (ed. IHME). Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation: Seattle, WA.
Kilian, AHD, Gregson, S, Ndyanabangi, B, Walusaga, K, Kipp, W, Sahlmüller, G, Garnett, GP, Asiimwe-Okiror, G, Kabagambe, G, Weis, P, von Sonnenburg, F (1999). Reductions in risk behaviour provide the most consistent explanation for declining HIV-1 prevalence in Uganda. AIDS 13, 391398.
McGorry, PD, Purcell, R, Goldstone, S, Amminger, GP (2011). Age of onset and timing of treatment for mental and substance use disorders: implications for preventive intervention strategies and models of care. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 24, 301306.
Moffitt, TE, Caspi, A, Taylor, AJ, Kokaua, J, Milne, BJ, Polanczyk, GV, Poulton, R (2010). How common are common mental disorders? Evidence that lifetime prevalence rates are doubled by prospective versus retrospective ascertainment. Psychological Medicine 40, 899909.
Moher, D, Liberati, A, Tetzlaff, J, Altman, DG (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition) 339, 332336.
Murray, CJL, Ezzati, M, Flaxman, AD, Lim, S, Lozano, R, Michaud, C, Naghavi, M, Salomon, JA, Shibuya, K, Vos, T, Wikler, D, Lopez, AD (2012). GBD 2010: design, definitions, and metrics. The Lancet 380, 20632066.
Ortblad, KF, Lozano, R, Murray, CJ (2013). The burden of HIV: insights from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. AIDS 27, 20032017.
UNICEF (2014 a). Generation 2030/Africa: Child Demographics in Africa. UNICEF: New York.
UNICEF, (2014 b). Multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS). In Statistics and Monitoring (ed. UNICEF). UNICEF. Available at Accessed 25 April 2015.
United Nations (2011). World Population Prospects – The 2010 Revision. United Nations: New York.
Weinstock, H, Berman, S, Cates, W (2004). Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 36, 610.
Whiteford, HA, Degenhardt, L, Rehm, J, Baxter, AJ, Ferrari, AJ, Erskine, HE, Charlson, FJ, Norman, RE, Flaxman, AD, Johns, N, Burstein, R, Murray, CJL, Vos, T (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet 382, 15751586.
World Health Organisation (1992). ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines. World Health Organisation: Geneva.
World Health Organisation (2014). Health for the World's Adolescents – A Second Chance in the Second Decade. World Health Organisation: Geneva, Switzerland.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
  • ISSN: 2045-7960
  • EISSN: 2045-7979
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Erskine supplementary material S1
Supplementary Tables

 PDF (529 KB)
529 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed