• Article
  • April 18, 2016

Adults Say Kids' Health is Worse Than in the Past

A new survey finds adults perceive children’s health is worse today than when they were growing up.

Bullying, stress, obesity and depression—these are some of the toughest challenges and health concerns children face today. Health care workers on the front lines of children’s hospitals and pediatricians’ offices see these issues every day, but how does the average consumer perceive major health issues for U.S. children? Recent survey findings show that adults in the U.S. broadly agree: children’s health today seems worse than over the last several decades.

To gain an understanding of the public’s perception of children’s health today, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at University of Michigan surveyed roughly 2,700 adults in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Association. The survey found that compared to when they were children:

  • 55 percent of adults perceive kids today to have worse mental or emotional health
  • 42 percent of adults perceive kids today to have worse physical health
  • 65 percent of adults perceive kids today to have less quality family time

More adults view mental or emotional health for children as worse than during their own childhoods than when asked to compare physical health in the same way. This finding may relate to the fact that medical and public health innovations have generally focused more on physical health ailments and less on behavioral concerns. 

“We have seen major advances in medicine and public health over the last century that have greatly reduced children’s illness and death,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the poll and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “On the other hand, conditions like childhood obesity, asthma and behavior problems have become more common.”

These findings suggest child health must become a higher priority at the national and community levels. The poll results also suggest that adults in the U.S. today would support a stronger focus in research and programs on children’s mental and emotional health, where most respondents perceive a clear need.