Background: Recognition has grown over recent years of the need for economic information on the impacts of child and adolescent mental health problems and the cost-effectiveness of interventions.
Methods: A range of electronic databases were examined using a predefined search strategy to identify economic studies which focused on services, pharmacological interventions and other treatments for children and adolescents with a diagnosed mental health problem or identified as at risk of mental illness. Published studies were included in the review if they assessed both costs and outcomes, with cost-effectiveness being the primary interest. Studies meeting the criteria for inclusion were assessed for quality.
Results: There are still relatively few economic evaluations in this field. Behavioural disorders have been given relatively greater attention in economic evaluations of child and adolescent mental health. These studies tentatively suggest child behavioural gains and parent satisfaction from parent and child training programmes, although the cost-effectiveness of the location of delivery for behavioural therapies is less clear. In general, the quality of economic evaluations was limited by small sample sizes, constrained measurement of costs, narrow perspectives and over-simple statistical and econometric methods.
Conclusion: Economic evaluations in the field of child and adolescent mental health interventions are few in number and generally poor in quality, although the number of studies being undertaken now appears to be rising.