ADHD rises 32% among children and teens

Though prevalence varies by race and ethnicity, such differences have narrowed during the past decade, a study finds.

By Christine S. Moyer — Posted Sept. 2, 2011

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The number of U.S. children ages 5 to 17 diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder climbed about 32% during the past decade, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows.

Nearly 1 in 10 children (about 4.7 million) had the disorder in 2007-09, according to the report issued Aug. 18 by the National Center for Health Statistics. The figure went from 7% in 1998-2000 to 9% in 2007-09.

The rise probably is due to the public's increased awareness of the disorder and greater familiarity among physicians about how to diagnose it, said pediatrician and lead study author Lara J. Akinbami, MD.

"It doesn't really matter why the prevalence is increasing," she said. "The fact is there is a greater demand being placed on education and health care resources" because of the rise in ADHD rates.

Patients with the neurobehavioral disorder often need more monitoring by primary care physicians than individuals without ADHD, due to the medication taken to reduce symptoms and an increased likelihood of developing chronic conditions such as asthma, Dr. Akinbami said. She is a medical officer at the NCHS in the Office of Analysis and Epidemiology.

Researchers examined data on about 40,000 households that participated in the 1998-2009 National Health Interview Survey. Each year, the survey includes information on 8,000 to 12,000 children. For this survey, parents were asked to report whether their child was diagnosed with ADHD.

The researchers found that prevalence rose among boys and girls during the study period, but the condition is more common in males (link).

In 2007-09, 12.3% of boys had the disorder, compared with 9.9% boys in 1998-2000. Among girls, ADHD diagnoses climbed from 3.6% to 5.5% during the same period.

Although prevalence varies by race and ethnicity, the differences among most groups narrowed during the past decade, the study shows. Dr. Akinbami attributed the shrinking gap, in part, to improved health care access for minority children, which leads to more opportunities for diagnosis.

When tracking financial trends, researchers found the greatest increase in ADHD prevalence among children whose families were considered near poor. Rates for this group rose more than 50% during the study period.

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