Epidemiology of Dizziness and Balance Problems in Children in the United States: A Population-Based Study

J Pediatr. 2016 Apr:171:240-7.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.12.002. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Objective: To study national prevalence of dizziness and balance problems in US children and explore associated risk factors and patterns of healthcare utilization.

Study design: A multistage, nationally representative, probability sample of children (n = 10,954; aged 3-17 years) was examined based on the 2012 National Health Interview Survey Child Balance Supplement. Parents were asked if during the past year their child was bothered by symptoms of dizziness and balance problems: vertigo (motion sensation), light-headedness/fainting, clumsiness/poor coordination, poor balance/unsteadiness when standing-up or walking, frequent falls, or other dizziness and balance problems. Logistic regression was used to examine associations with sociodemographic information, birth weight, developmental delays, and significant health conditions.

Results: Prevalence of dizziness and balance problems was 5.3% (3.3 million US children); females, 5.7%, males, 5.0%. Non-Hispanic white (6.1%) had increased prevalence compared with Hispanic (4.6%) and non-Hispanic black (4.3%) children, P = .01. Prevalence increased with age, from 4.1% for children aged 3-5 years to 7.5% for children aged 15-17 years, P < .001. Even though the majority had symptoms rated as "no problem" or "a small problem," 18.6% (600,000 US children) had symptoms rated as "moderate," "big," or "very big" problems. Overall, 36.0% of children with dizziness and balance problems were seen by healthcare professionals during the past year and 29.9% received treatment. Among children with dizziness and balance problems rated as moderate/big/very big problems, 71.6% had seen healthcare professionals and 62.4% received treatment for dizziness and balance problems.

Conclusions: The risk factors identified provide useful epidemiologic information about dizziness and balance problems in children and will be used in tracking the Healthy People 2020 goal to increase utilization of healthcare services for these children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Weight
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Dizziness / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postural Balance*
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensation Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Social Class
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Vertigo / epidemiology*
  • Walking