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Mental health service use among children and youth in Ontario: population-based trends over time


Objective — Little is known about mental health service use among Canadian children and youth. Our objective was to examine temporal trends in mental health service use across different sectors of the healthcare system among children and youth living in Ontario.

Methods — We conducted a population-based, repeated annual cross-sectional study of mental health service use, including mental health- and addictions-related emergency department (ED) visits, psychiatric hospitalizations, and mental health related outpatient physician visits using linked health administrative databases. Subjects included Ontario residents between 10 and 24 years of age. We tested temporal trends between 2006 and 2011 using linear regression models.

Results — Between 2006 and 2011, the relative increase in rates of mental health-related ED visits and hospitalizations were 32.5% and 53.7%, respectively. The absolute increase in anxiety disorders, the most common reason for ED visits, was 2.2 per 1000 population (P < 0.001) while mood and affective disorders, the most common reason for hospitalizations, showed an increase of 0.6 per 1000 population (P < 0.01). The overall relative increase in rates of outpatient visits was 15.8%, with the largest absolute increase found among family physician visits (28.7 per 1000 population, P = 0.01).

Conclusions — Mental healthcare use for children and youth is increasing over time in all sectors, but appears to be increasing at a greater rate in the acute care sector. Further research is required to understand whether the observed differences reflect difficulty with access to outpatient care.



Gandhi S, Chiu M, Lam K, Cairney JC, Guttmann A, Kurdyak P. Can J Psychiatry. 2016; 61(2):119-24.

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