ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -- Nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder, and this number has been rising for more than a decade.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 20 percent of American children are suffering from mental disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression and autism.
The CDC's first study of mental disorders among children aged 3 to 17 also found that the cost of medical bills for treatment of such disorders is up to $247 billion each year.
"This is a deliberate effort by CDC to show mental health is a health issue. As with any health concern, the more attention we give to it, the better. It's parents becoming aware of the facts and talking to a health-care provider about how their child is learning, behaving and playing with other kids," said Dr. Ruth Perou, the study's lead author.
The CDC data was collected between 1994 and 2011, and it shows that the number of children being diagnosed with mental disorders has been steadily growing. The study did not conclude exactly why the numbers are increasing.
More research is needed to determine the specific causes of mental disorders, said Dr. Perou, and that greater awareness could lead to an uptick in diagnoses. A host of environmental factors, including chemical exposure and poverty, also can affect a child's mental health, she said.
The study also found that girls were more prone to depression and alcohol abuse than boys, and that 6.8 percent of U.S. children are affected by attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
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