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Health Research Board

Children being admitted to psychiatric units increases by a fifth, from 408 to 497

Depression remains the most common diagnosis among children, followed by neuroses, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

THERE’S BEEN AN increase in the number of under 18-year-olds admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals in Ireland, according to figures from the Health Research Board (HRB).

Admissions have risen from 408 admissions in 2018 to 497 in 2019.

The most common diagnoses among young people were depressive disorders (157 admissions), neuroses (80), eating disorders (54) and schizophrenia (51).

Of the 497 children admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals in 2019, 443 were admitted to dedicated child and adolescent psychiatric units, an increase from 324 in 2018.

The remaining 54 were admitted to adult psychiatric units and hospitals, a decrease from 84 in 2018. Capacity and staffing issues at psychiatric facilities is an ongoing concern, particularly when it results in children being cared for in adult facilities. 

Girls accounted for seven-in-ten of all child admissions, and for nine-in-ten admissions of children with eating disorders. Males accounted for nine-in-ten admissions with drug disorders.

According to Antoinette Daly, Research Officer at the HRB, said that the increase “could reflect an increase in the number of places, a real increase in admissions or a combination of both”.

It is good to see a decrease in admissions of under 18s to adult units, with a 67% reduction in the number of children being admitted to adult units, from 163 in 2010 to 54 in 2019.

“Young females outnumber young males in most diagnostic categories, in particular for eating disorders, of which 96% of admissions were female.”

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out if people have died because they can’t access out-of-hours mental health care. See how you can support this project here.

Overall figures

There were a total of 16,710 admissions to Irish psychiatric units and hospitals in 2019, a decrease from 17,000 in 2018. Males accounted for just over half of all admissions (51%).

The median age of admissions was 43. However, the 20–24 age group had the highest overall rate of admissions (568 admissions per 100,000).

Overall, admissions were more likely to be single, unemployed and diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Schizophrenia, mania and neuroses were second, third and fourth most common diagnoses, respectively.

There were 16,608 discharges from Irish psychiatric units and hospitals in 2019.

There was a slight decrease in the number of deaths, from 137 in 2018 to 127 in 2019; males accounted for 61% of all deaths.

Ninety-two per cent of all admissions in 2019 were discharged in 2019. The average length of stay for all discharges in 2019 was 64.2 days (median 15 days).

According to Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the HRB:

“By monitoring these figures and patterns of admissions and discharges in psychiatric care we can help understand people’s mental health needs better.

That is why HRB data is so essential – it provides the evidence policy makers and service providers need to target care and initiatives where they are needed most.

You can read the Activities of Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals report 2019 here.

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