ADHD sufferers now make up 12 percent of school-aged kids, with sharp rise in girls

ADHD diagnoses skyrocket among U.S. kids

ADHD sufferers now make up 12 percent of school-aged kids, and two groups are growing quickly: girls and Hispanics.. The report, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggests that 5.8 million children ages 5 to 17 in the U.S. are now diagnosed with the disorder, which is characterized by difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. The report shows a surprising 55 percent increase in prevalence of diagnoses among girls — from 4.7 percent to 7.3 percent from 2003 to 2011. Producer’s Notes: Nature Deficit Disorder.

2015 Study Abstract

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children in the United States. While overall ADHD prevalence continues to rise, few have examined difference by race/ethnicity.

To examine trends in parent-reported ADHD prevalence between 2003 and 2011 across racial/ethnic groups and the role of sociodemographic factors in observed differences in ADHD.

Data were from 3 waves of the National Survey of Children’s Health (2003, 2007, and 2011), including 190,408 children aged 5–17 years. Independent variables included race/ethnicity (white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, Hispanic, other non-Hispanic), gender, age, poverty level, primary language, insurance status, parental marital status, and neighborhood safety. Sociodemographic factors and year were compared among those diagnosed with ADHD and between racial/ethnic groups using χ2 tests. Adjusted logistic regression models, stratified by race/ethnicity, were fit to examine the association between identified risk factors and ADHD across racial/ethnic groups. Parental report of an ADD or ADHD diagnosis for a child aged 5–17 years was the dependent variable. If the household included more than 1 child aged 5–17 years, 1 was selected at random.

Increasing trends were observed over the past decade in the prevalence of parent-reported ADHD overall (43%, P < .001), among children aged 10–14 years (47%, P < .001), and adolescents aged 15–17 years (52%, P < .001). Although the ADHD prevalence was still highest among whites, increasing trends were observed for all racial/ethnic groups, most notably among Hispanics, increasing 83% from 2003 to 2011 (P < .001). A greater increase in ADHD was also observed among females (55%, P < .001) than among males (40%).

Economics, family status, non-English language in the home, and neighborhood safety factors differentially impacted diagnosed ADHD across racial/ethnic groups. Although new insights into the role of economic, family, and neighborhood factors on parent-reported ADHD diagnoses were noted, more research is needed to understand causes of the observed racial/ethnic disparities.

Sources and more information
  • Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Parent-Reported Diagnosis of ADHD: National Survey of Children’s Health (2003, 2007, and 2011), The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 10.4088/JCP.14m09364, 2015.
  • ADHD diagnoses skyrocket among U.S. kids, CBS NEWS, December 8, 2015.
  • Sharp rise in ADHD diagnoses in girls challenges myth that the condition is mostly a boy thing, washingtonpost, December 9.
  • The ADHD Epidemic No One Is Talking About, thedailybeast, 12.09.15.

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