Children and young people's emotional wellbeing and mental health – facts and figures

A collection of facts and figures regarding children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing, access to services and government investment. They are correct as of January 2022.

At least one in six children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Boys aged 6 to 10 years were more likely to have a probable mental disorder than girls (nearly double) but in 17 to 23 year olds, this pattern was reversed, with rates higher in young women than young men. There is a less significant difference in 11-16 year olds.

Over half of all mental health disorders start before the age of 14, with 75 per cent by 24 years of age.

4,127 children were admitted to inpatient mental health care in 2019/20

Emotional disorders, particularly anxiety and depression, are on the rise. We are aware of the negative impact of social media on young people’s emotional health and the long term impact of the pandemic, inability to access school, isolation and stress that young people have experienced over the past two years.  

Although no one is immune from poor mental health some children are more likely to need help than others

Children and young people are more likely to have poor mental health if they experience some form of adversity, such as living in poverty, parental separation or financial crisis, where there is a problem with the way their family functions or whose parents already have poor mental health.

Young people who identify as LGBQT are also more likely to suffer from a mental health condition.

Looked after children are four times more likely to experience mental health issues than their peers.

A third of people in the youth justice system are estimated to have a mental health problem.

Nearly three quarters of children with a mental health condition also have a physical health condition or developmental problem.

Demand has gone up...

Over 40,000 children and young people were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2017/18 – and there has been an increase in the number of younger children self harming. An average of 10 nine to twelve year olds are admitted to hospital a week due to self harm.

190,271 0–18-year-olds were referred to children and young people’s mental health services between April and June this year (2021), up 134 per cent on the same period last year (81,170) and 96 per cent on 2019 (97,342).

The average waiting time for children and young people to access mental health services ranges from 8 to 82 days.

In 2018, only 20 per cent of children and young people started treatment within 4 weeks.

...and funding has stagnated...

Spend per child ranges from £14- £191 per person. Average adult spending is £225 on mental health services. On average, local Clinical Commissioning Group areas spend less than one per cent of their overall budget on children’s mental health and 14 times more on adult mental health services than on services for children. However, some local areas are spending considerably more.

Government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has been cut by almost £1 billion.

Public health funding, which funds school nurses and public mental health services, have seen a £700 million real terms reduction in funding between 2014/15 and 2020/21 – a fall of almost a quarter (23.5 per cent) per person.

...leaving services without capacity to support children and young people in need

In 2019, specialist services are turning away one in four of the children referred to them for treatment.  

Four per cent of children accessed mental health services last year in 2019/20. This is equivalent to about 1 in 4 children who needed mental health services.

There is limited support available for children under the age of five. 42 per cent of CAMHS in England do not accept referrals for children aged two and under and there are only 39 parent-infant teams in the UK.

Around 75 per cent of young people experiencing a mental health problem are forced to wait so long their condition gets worse or are unable to access any treatment at all.