A recent Hokkaido University research team survey showed as many as 4.2% of students between the fourth grade of primary school and th first grade of middle school in the nation suffer depression or manic depression, with the rate reaching 10.7 % for middle school first-graders.
“It’s surprising that the prevalence rate is that high,” said Kenzo Denda, an associate professor at the university’s graduate school who is a member of the research team that surveyed 738 students from April to September.
“Cases of depression among children have been overlooked until now,” he said. “But measures should be considered seriously in view of the fact that such depression has a causal relationship with suicides.”
The research team interviewed a total 382 boys and 356 girls from eight primary and two middle schools in Hokkaido.
It was the first large epidemiological study in Japan involving interviews. Epidemiological studies of this typ had previously been conducted by mailing questionnaires to students.
The results showed 3.1 percent suffering from depression, including those with slight depression, and 1.1 percent suffering from manic depression psychosis.
By school year, 1.6% percent of primary school fourth-graders, 2.1% percent of fifth-graders and 4.1% of sixth-graders have either one of th two disorders.
With the rate at 10.7% for middle school first-graders, the survey showed that the higher a student’s school year, the more prevalent the disorders are.
The survey gathered such data as what time the pupils affected go to bed and wake up, the length of hours during which they play video games, and whether they eat breakfast.
But the data show there is no causal relationship between the patient’s lifestyles and the mental disorders, Denda said.
Psychiatrists who took part in the interviews suspect that apart from the pupils with the two disorders, 2.6% of students are suffering from various pervasive development disorders, such as high-functioning autism, he said.
But psychiatrists could not reach a definitive conclusion on this point, as they could not gather sufficient data on the personal development histories of the suspect cases, he said.
They have since recommended that the parents of the pupils found to be suffering from the disorders take their children to see doctors, depending on the seriousness of their cases.
Source: The Daily Yomiuri Fri, Oct 12, 2007