Every fifth child is mentally abnormal

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Around 20 percent of the children show psychological problems

A fifth of the children in Germany show psychological problems. This is the result of the BELLA study led by the professor of health sciences and health psychology, Dr. Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

At the 108th Annual Meeting of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ), organized jointly with six other specialist societies, numerous experts in the field of pediatric and adolescent medicine have been addressing the new findings and challenges in pediatrics since Wednesday in Hamburg. The results of the BELLA study are a frequently discussed topic. Nationwide, the study “Children, adolescents and their parents as well as young adults aged 3 to 23 years asked about their mental health and their subjective well-being.” The study is an in-depth part of Robert's Child and Adolescent Health Survey (KiGGS) -Koch Institute in Berlin. The result was alarming: every fifth child shows psychological problems.

Unfocused, hyperactive, depressed or aggressive - children with psychological problems According to the study authors, psychological abnormalities such as hyperactivity, depression or a general willingness to use violence in adolescents have increased the interest in research in pediatrics and adolescent medicine in recent years. The BELLA study is also intended to provide a reliable scientific database for further studies in this area. In cooperation with the Robert Koch Institute, the experts from the UKE carried out the first three survey waves at intervals of one year between 2003 and 2008. The fourth survey has been running since 2010, and the final results will be published next year. A total of 3,800 families with children were interviewed. The President of the 108th Annual Meeting of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Medical Director of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the UKE, Prof. Kurt Ullrich, explained that pediatricians in the practices and clinics perceive complaints that “previously not so often with the small patients. ”The extent to which the problem really assumed and what the causes of it were, however, had to be explored even more precisely.

20 percent of adolescents with signs of psychological abnormalities The BELLA study provides a good basis for scientific discussion. The author of the study, Prof. Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer from the "Child Public Health" research section at UKE, said the study shows "that at least 20 percent of children and adolescents show evidence of psychological abnormalities". According to the expert, more than five percent of boys and girls in the completed surveys suffered from depression, more than ten percent from phobias (fears) and over seven percent tended to show conspicuous social behavior, such as an increased propensity to violence. Around 50 percent of those affected remained permanently psychologically conspicuous. A low social status and migration background are known as possible risk factors for psychological problems, but the family situation also plays an important role. The climate that prevails in the family could be an important “protection or risk factor,” explained Prof. Ravens-Sieberer.

Family situation crucial for children's mental health According to the professor of health sciences, health psychology and the care of children and adolescents, the family situation has a major impact on the mental health of adolescents. Conflicts or psychological problems in the parents therefore have a direct influence on the children's mental state. A lot of support and affection is a protective factor. According to Prof. Ravens-Sieberer, medicine should "start much more with families and enable them to accompany their children through difficult situations."

ADHD and computer addiction Particular attention is paid to the so-called attention deficit / hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) among adolescents at the 108th annual conference of the DGKJ. This mental disorder, also known as Zappelphilipp syndrome, affects 2.9 percent of boys and 1.4 percent of girls, according to the BELLA study. In the context of the lecture “Children are sick differently today - case study computer addiction” Christian Fricke, President of the Conference of the German Society for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, also possible connections between the occurrence of ADHD and excessive gaming on the computer or the console. Although there is “no direct evidence to date that excessive activity in front of the screen leads to ADHD, there is certainly a connection to be observed,” explained the expert. Excessive gaming behavior is understood when children hang in front of the console or the computer for more than 4.5 hours a day, Fricke continues.

Computer addiction as an independent clinical picture? The lecture by Dr. According to Fricke, computer addiction mostly manifests itself in excessive, uncontrolled gaming, a decline in other leisure activities and increasing school problems. Those affected often show a waning interest in social contacts, a low self-confidence away from the PC or the console as well as a strong irresistible desire for computer games when abstinence. The actual seasons are denied and negative consequences are accepted, says Dr. Fricke on. According to the expert, 15.8 percent of boys and 4.3 percent of girls show excessive computer game behavior. Three percent of boys and 0.3 percent of girls can be described as computer-dependent. There is a risk of dependency in just under five percent of boys and 0.5 percent of girls. In the context of the 108th annual conference of the DGKJ, in view of the growing spread of the phenomenon of computer dependency, the recognition of this psychological abnormality as an independent clinical picture is also being discussed. (fp)

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Image: Jens Weber / pixelio.de

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