Rural Children Experience Different Rates of Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment

Using data on children ages 5-17 from the 2002-2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), this study examines 2 research questions:

  1. Do patterns of children’s mental health diagnosis and service use (e.g., office visits and psychotropic medications) differ by rural-urban residence?
  2. What is the effect of income and insurance type on use of mental health services?

Key findings:

  • Among those with the highest levels of mental health need, rural children are more often identified with an ADHD diagnosis than urban children.
  • The higher prevalence of ADHD diagnosis and stimulant prescribing in rural areas likely results from a greater need for such treatment, based on scores from the Columbia Impairment Scale.
  • Among those with a possible mental health impairment, rural children are less likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness other than ADHD and are less likely to receive counseling.
  • Higher rates of poverty, public coverage, and mental health impairment among rural children explain their greater likelihood of a mental health prescription and stimulant use.

Population of focus: Rural children

Link to resource: Research and Policy Brief — Rural Children Experience Different Rates of Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment (pdf)

Date: 2013

Organization: Maine Rural Health Research Center