According to findings presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, the prevalence of disability in children has jumped more than 16 percent in 10 years.

The reason for this rise in disability prevalence is unclear, although, according to Disability Scoop, researchers believe it’s due to “increased diagnosis of neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions.”

Researchers identified the rise in disability prevalence by comparing data from the National Health Interview Survey collected in 2009-2010 to those collected in 2001-2002. The National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a poll of more than 100,000 parents of children up to age 17. The section that asks parents to report on their childrens’ disabilities indicated that in 2009-2010, six million children more children had a disability than were reported to in 2001-2002 (an increase of over a million). The prevalence of physical disabilities had declined, but it had grown for neurodevelopmental disabilities and mental health conditions.

The study’s lead author, Amy Houtrow of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told that “we suspect that some of the increase in neurodevelopmental disabilities is due to the rising incidence or recognition of autism spectrum disorders.” She added that fully understanding what’s behind the rise in disability prevalence in children will require more research.

The study also uncovered these trends:

– The rate of neurodevelopmental disabilities nearly doubled for children under age 6 between 2001-2002 and 2009-2010

– Children living in poverty had the highest rates of disability in both time periods studied.

– The largest increase in childhood disability rates was seen in children from higher-income households.

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