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Infection: A mental health risk for kids?

1 out of every 5 children experiences a mental health disorder in a given year

ORLANDO, Fla. – Mental health disorders are the most common conditions in childhood. In fact, more than 17 million kids in the United States have or have had a psychiatric disorder.

One out of every five children experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. 

“Trauma and adversity is really a public health crisis at this point. What we’re seeing is that the vast majority of our families are under an immense amount of stress," Dr. Dayna Long, of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, said.

A new study shows that there may be another culprit: infections. 

Researchers from Denmark found that children who had been hospitalized with an infection had an 84% increased risk of suffering a mental disorder and a 42% increased risk of being prescribed medication for a mental disorder. 

“We are learning a lot about what it means for a child to be under toxic stress,” Long said.

In the study, infections were linked to a wide range of disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, personality disorder, psychotic disorders, and more.

Scientists suspect that the body’s inflammatory reaction that happens while fighting infection can affect the brain. They say future research may offer more clues about this curious association. 

Patients had more than five times increased risk of developing a mental health problem in the first three months after being in the hospital for an infection.