Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Children's mental health care costly for families

In Brief

Children's mental health care costly for families

When a child develops any illness, the family often suffers financially as well as emotionally. A study from Yale Medical School indicates that caring for a child with a mental health problem creates more of an economic burden for many families than caring for a child with some other type of medical problem.

The researchers analyzed data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics from 2000 to 2002. They determined whether the parents had private or public insurance, and they measured the impact of a child's condition on out-of-pocket medical expenses and other aspects of family finances.

The outcome depended on what type of insurance the parents had. Parents with private insurance and a child with a mental health problem spent significantly more money out-of-pocket, and experienced more financial problems as a result, compared with privately insured parents of children with other types of medical problems. In contrast, parents with public insurance reported similar levels of out-of-pocket spending and financial problems, regardless of whether their children had mental health problems or other special needs.

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