A recent report suggests that the number of American children with mental disabilities is rising fast.

The report shows that in the U.S., cases involving children with physical disabilities have decreased by 12 percent from 2001 to 2010. However, the number of children with mental health or neurodevelopmental disorder has spiked by about 21 percent.

The study called "Changing Trends of Childhood Disability, 2001-2011" has been published in the online journal Pediatrics. Researchers examined data from National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which took place between 2001 to 2002 and 2010 to 2011. As part of the survey, the parents had to fill a questionnaire, which included questions such as if their children suffered any health problems.

Dr. Amy Houtrow, chief of the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, who is also the lead author of the study, reveals that kids belonging to poor families had the highest disability rate. However, Dr. Houtrow also suggests that children from affluent families reported the highest increase in disabilities during the research period.

"The disparities were interesting and not really expected," says Houtrow. "But the steepness in the rise (of disabilities in affluent children) makes me think there has to be different stresses, environmental experiences and or other risk factors in these families. All this needs to be studied."

Dr. Houtrow explains that children from high economic family backgrounds received more care from their parents, who were comfortable in dealing with the disabilities of their kids. People in the high economic groups have the advantage of seeking medical attention, both physical and mental, for their children whenever they want.

However, the researchers say that poor people have other things to worry about and may not give a lot of attention to the medical needs of their children.

The researchers added that children from low economic groups experienced the highest disability rates at 102.6 cases per 1,000 people from 2010 to 2011. By comparison, children with disability in the top income bracket experienced disability rates at 62.9 cases per 1,000.

Dr. Houtrow and her team also reveal that children living in the top income bracket of the society witnessed the biggest disability rate increase, which stood at 28.4 percent during the research period. However, the rate of disability in children living in poor economic conditions rose only by 10.7 percent during the same period.

The significance of the study will help researchers find the need to better understand the medical, environmental and social factors that influence childhood disability.

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