Cases of ADHD surge in US kids
From 2003 to 2011, prevalence rose by 43% to affect about 1 in 8 youth.
A new study indicates that ADHD is on the rise in US children, the largest jump being in the Hispanic and non-English speaking population. Also, there was a rise in the diagnoses in girls, speculated to be linked to better recognition of the symptoms in girls.
“Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children in the US, is becoming even more commonly diagnosed, according to a new analysis of nationwide data.
Between 2003 and 2011, prevalence of the disorder in kids aged five to 17 rose from 8.4 percent to 12 percent, a 42.9 percent increase, researchers report. That means that 5.8 million children and young adults—about one in eight—in the US now have the diagnosis. Such a diagnosis identifies recurring hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness that hinders work, play, and school activities. The surge, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, affected kids across different races/ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, age groups, and genders—although, to varying degrees.
“We aren’t able to get at the driving forces behind the trends,” Sean Cleary, coauthor of the study and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University, told Ars. But, he said, speculation includes greater recognition of the symptoms, as well as over diagnosis. The latter, is of course a concern, Cleary said. But so is under diagnosis, he added. If ADHD is not caught and treated early, symptoms and problems could persist into adulthood, he explained.
For the study, Cleary and coauthor Kevin Collins, also of George Washington, harvested parent-reported health and socioeconomic data on 190,408 kids aged five to 17 from a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the survey, parents were asked: “Has a doctor or other health care provider ever told you that [subject child] had attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder, that is, ADD or ADHD?” The agency collected data in three waves, surveying parents in 2003, 2007, and 2011.
One striking trend that came out of the researchers’ analysis was a boost in ADHD diagnoses in girls, Cleary said. In the past, ADHD has been seen as primarily an issue for boys. This may be because symptoms in boys are easy to identify, such as acting out, whereas girls may be prone to quieter, easy-to-miss symptoms of inattentiveness, Cleary said. Yet, in the study, there was a 55 percent increase in diagnosis in girls over the eight-year period, compared to only a 40 percent increase in boys. The boost may be linked to better recognition of the symptoms in girls, he speculated.
The largest leaps in diagnoses came from Hispanic and non-English speaking kids. ADHD prevalence jumped 83 percent in Hispanics and 107 percent in non-English speaking kids during the eight-year study. The surges may be linked to increased Spanish-language mental health resources and cultural acceptance of mental health illnesses.
If anything, Cleary said, the study brings to light more questions than answers about ADHD diagnosis trends.
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2015. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.14m09364”
Play Attention has recognized ADHD symptoms for over 20 years. Let us help you and yours lead successful, productive and happy lives.