Childhood Health: Trends and Consequences over the Life Course

July 1, 2012


pdf File Childhood Health trends and consequences.pdf (887KB) [download]

This article first documents evidence on the changing prevalence of childhood physical and mental health problems, focusing on the development of childhood health conditions in the United States. Authors Liam Delaney and James Smith present evidence on the changing prevalence of childhood chronic conditions over time using recalled data as well as contemporaneous accounts of these childhood health problems. The raw data from both sources show sharp increases in the prevalence of most childhood physical health problems (such as asthma, allergies, respiratory problems, and migraines) over time. However, inferring trends is difficult because such data are also consistent with improved detection of childhood disease, and many of the causes of childhood disease have not worsened over time. Conclusions about rapidly rising rates of childhood physical health problems over time are premature at best, especially concerning the magnitude of trends. Documenting real changes in the prevalence of specific diseases is a high-priority research topic. In contrast, the evidence is much stronger that childhood mental health problems are becoming worse.