ADHD Diagnoses In Children Rose Dramatically Over Past Decade
January 22, 2013

ADHD Diagnoses In Children Rose Dramatically Over Past Decade

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A Kaiser Permanente study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reveals that the rate of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) rose dramatically between 2001 and 2010 with non-Hispanic white children having the highest diagnosis rates. The study also found a 90 percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD among non-Hispanic black girls in the same time period.

The team used data from the electronic health records of nearly 850,000 ethnically diverse children between the ages of 5 and 11 years who had received health care at Kaiser Permanente Southern California between 2001 and 2011. The researchers found that among these children, 4.9 percent, or 39,200, had a diagnosis of ADHD with more white and black children being diagnosed than Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islander children.

As an example: the study found 5.6 percent of white children in the participant group had a diagnosis of ADHD in 2010. Blacks accounted for 4.1 percent, Hispanics 2.5 percent and 1.2 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

In an interesting correlation, the study also found increases in the rates of first-time ADHD diagnosis, with newly diagnosed cases rising from 2.5 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2010. This represents a relative increase of 24 percent. With a 70 percent relative increase — from 2.6 percent in 2001 to 4.1 percent in 2010, black children showed the greatest increases in ADHD incidence. Rates among Hispanic children showed a 60 percent relative increase while Asian/ Pacific Islander and other racial groups remained unchanged.

"Our study findings suggest that there may be a large number of factors that affect ADHD diagnosis rates, including cultural factors that may influence the treatment-seeking behavior of some groups," said Darios Getahun, MD, PhD, from Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation.

"These findings are particularly solid given that our study relied on clinical diagnoses of ADHD based on the criteria specified within the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and that it represents a large and ethnically diverse population that can be generalized to other populations," said Getahun.

Boys were found to be three times more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD as girls, the study found. Children from higher income families were also more likely to have a diagnosis; children from families with household incomes of more than $30,000 a year were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children from poorer families.

ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that between 4 and 12 percent of school-aged children have the disorder. ADHD generates health care costs of between $36 and $52 billion annually. ADHD children are more likely to experience learning disabilities, miss school time, become injured and have relationship troubles with family members and peers. ADHD persists into adolescence and adulthood in approximately 66 to 85 percent of diagnosed children.

The authors assert that though the origin of ADHD is not understood, emerging evidence reveals that both genetic and environmental factors play important roles.

"While the reasons for increasing ADHD rates are not well understood, contributing factors may include heightened awareness of ADHD among parents and physicians, which could have led to increased screening and treatment," said Dr. Getahun. "This variability may indicate the need for different allocation of resources for ADHD prevention programs, and may point to new risk factors or inequalities in care."