The number of U.S. children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose 43% over an eight-year period, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of 2011, 12% of youths had been diagnosed, and there were big jumps for females and Hispanics compared to 2003, according to a new study “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Parent-Reported Diagnosis of ADHD” (Collins KP, Cleary SD. J Clin Psychiatry. Dec. 8, 2015, http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2015/aheadofprint/14m09364.aspx).
“While the reasons for this increase in prevalence remain unclear, ADHD diagnoses, treatment and service utilization represent a growing economic cost to the United States and merit continued monitoring,” researchers said.
Researchers analyzed data from the 2003, 2007 and 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. In the survey, parents were asked if a health care provider had ever told them their child (age 5-17 years) had attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD.
They found an overall prevalence of 12% in 2011 compared to 8.4% in 2007.
White children had the highest rates of ADHD among the races studied, but there was an 83.3% increase for Hispanic children.
As in the past, males were diagnosed with ADHD more than females (16.5% vs. 7.3%), but the rate for females spiked 55.3% over eight years compared to a 39.8% increase for males.
“This may reflect an increased understanding of ADHD symptoms in girls, which can manifest differently than in boys,” the study said.
Among age categories, there was a 52.1% jump for adolescents 15-17 years, putting rates on par with children ages 10-14.
“The larger increase in ADHD prevalence for this age group is of concern because the effects of ADHD are often expected to weaken in later adolescence or postadolescence and many diagnosed children will discontinue medication around this time,” according to the study.
Researchers also found that factors like language, poverty level and parents’ marital status play a role in whether a child was diagnosed with ADHD. In a news release, they called for additional studies to determine the causes of ADHD rate increases and encouraged parents to talk to their doctor if they have concerns.