Childhood ADHD on the Rise in the US

Mental health experts at the journal JAMA Pediatrics, in a study conducted on patient medical data collected between 2001 and 2010, reported that the number of new cases of childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder increased 24% over 9 years.  The results of the Southern California-based study, which looked at the electronic health records of almost 850,000 children aged 5-11 years from an ethnically diverse sample, found that 4.9% (or 39,200) of children treated by Kaiser Permanente Southern California had been diagnosed with ADHD.  The study found that non-Hispanic white children had the highest rates of diagnosis, and that overall, white and black children were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander peers.

Darios Getahun, M.D., Ph.D. from Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California’s Department of Research & Evaluation and the study’s lead author said, “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.”  The findings of the study are in line with several recent nationwide studies that have also seen an increase in ADHD diagnosis in kids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 4% and 12% of school-aged kids have ADHD, which can cause learning problems, relationship problems and other social and physical problems.  Kaiser’s study found that while there still isn’t a clear understanding for why ADHD diagnosis rates have increased, it could be partially due to the increased awareness of the mental disorder and an increase in screening and treatment.  Getahun said, “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.”


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