Behavioral health diagnoses among children and adolescents hospitalized in the United States: Observations and implications

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Objective: The study described rates and characteristics of U.S. children hospitalized with a behavioral (mental or substance use) disorder. Methods: This cross-sectional analysis of data from the 2012 Kids’ Inpatient Database included 483,281 hospitalizations in general and children’s hospitals of persons under age 21 with a primary or secondary behavioral diagnosis. Results: The admission rate with any behavioral diagnosis was 5.5 per 1,000 children in the U.S. population, with 2.9 having a primary behavioral diagnosis. Common primary diagnoses included depression (34%), other mood (31%), psychotic (9%), and substance use (7%) disorders. The most common behavioral diagnoses secondary to a primary diagnosis that is not behavioral were depression (26%), attention-deficit disorder (26%), and substance use disorders (22%). Suicide or self-harm was rarely the primary diagnosis (.1%) but complicated 12% of admissions with a primary behavioral diagnosis. Variations in admissions (per 1,000 children in the U.S. population) with a primary behavioral diagnosis were noted by race-ethnicity (blacks, 3.2; whites, 2.9; and Hispanics, 1.4), insurance (public, 2.9; private, 2.0), and geographic region. Fifty-nine of every 1,000 peripartum admissions in the 12–20 age group had a secondary behavioral diagnosis. Patients with behavioral comorbidities were more likely to be transferred to another facility (8.0% versus 2.2%, p,.001). Behavioral disorders comorbid to nonbehavioral disorders increased length of stay (4.3 versus 3.3 days, p,.001) and costs ($12,742 versus $9,929, p,.001). Conclusions: Nearly 500,000 pediatric admissions in 2012 included behavioral disorders. Comorbidities were associated with longer stays and an estimated $1.36 billion additional annual costs, which were disproportionately borne by public insurance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-918
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


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