Children’s Mental Health: The ‘Hidden Epidemic’

By CodeBlue | 11 June 2020

Children’s mental health problems are mostly caused by issues with peers, according to the NHMS 2019.

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — A total of 424,000 children in Malaysia suffer from mental health problems, while as many as a quarter of Malaysian adults experience functional difficulties, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019.

Nearly one in 10 children aged between 10 and 15 years have mental health issues, according to the national survey last year. The NHMS 2019 by the Institute for Public Health (IKU), a research institute under the National Institutes of Health by the Ministry of Health (MOH) also found that 8.4 per cent of girls had mental health problems.

Graphic on children’s mental health problems from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 by the Institute for Public Health (IKU), a research institute under the National Institutes of Health by the Ministry of Health.

According to the NHMS 2019, 8.8 per cent of the rural population suffer from mental health problems, while 9.2 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent (B40) income group have mental health issues.

The NHMS 2019 — which dubbed mental health issues among children as “the hidden epidemic” — listed contributors to children’s mental health problems by domain, with the majority coming from problems with peers (42.9 per cent); conduct problems made up 15.9 per cent; emotional problems made up 8.3 per cent; and the remaining 2.3 per cent had hyperactivity issues.

Key findings from the NHMS 2017: Adolescent Health and Nutrition Surveys found that suicidal ideation among Malaysian teens increased from 7.9 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent in 2017. Teenage girls were also reported to have high rates of suicidal ideation than boys, at 10.8 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively.

Graphic on functional difficulties from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 by the Institute for Public Health (IKU), a research institute under the National Institutes of Health by the Ministry of Health.

The NHMS 2019 also reported that one in four adults in Malaysia suffer from functional difficulties, which includes difficulty in seeing (14.9 per cent), difficulty in hearing (7.6 per cent), difficulty with memories (7.0 per cent), walking difficulties (10.4 per cent), troubles with self-care (2.1 per cent), and communication difficulties (2.0 per cent).

In addition to that, 4.7 per cent of children aged between two and 17 years also reportedly suffered from functional difficulties.

As for the statistics of those at risk of experiencing functional difficulties, the rural population was reported to be more at risk than the urban population at 34.4 per cent compared to 25 per cent. Females were also reported to suffer from functional difficulties more than men at 31.6 per cent, which male counterparts reported at 22.9 per cent.

The prevalence of functional difficulties was also reported to increase with age on a gradual scale, with half of those aged 60 to 69 experiencing such problems, rising to 65.5 per cent in the 70-79 age group, and 91 per cent prevalence among those aged 80 years and above.

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