It may not be known why, but it seems that ADHD diagnoses are on the rise in the U.S. which brings forth an important question. Are children seeing more accurate diagnoses or are they being over-diagnosed due the heightened worry around the condition? It’s a tough answer to find for experts.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, which gathered information on kids of 17 years old or below. The study encompassed information from 2003, 2007, and 2011, centered around answers from their parents on whether their child has ever been diagnosed by a medical health professional with ADHD.
ADHD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is often characterized by lack of concentration, impulsiveness, difficulty in paying attention, and hyperactivity. This could result in various social problems, ranging from anxiety to trouble in school, be it behavioral or in terms of grades. The disorder experiences a similar fate to autism, where both are seeing an increased rate though it’s a mystery why.
12% of total U.S. children diagnosed with ADHD
However, one thing’s for sure. The number of diagnoses has definitely skyrocketed through the years. Between 2003 and 2011, the numbers have seen a 43% increase. This brought the number to 12% of the U.S. children and teenagers that are diagnosed with ADHD. Furthermore, the rates have also seen to a huge increase for both girls and Hispanics.
Normally, it was observed that white male children have a higher likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis, but others seem to be catching up. According to co-author of the study, Sean Cleary, from George Washington University, this indicates that doctors have accepted the different symptoms between boys and girls.
Girls saw a 55% increase and Hispanics 84%
For example, for boys, the marks are more noticeable, as they tend to stand out as ‘troublemakers’. For girls, it’s characterized as ‘daydreaming’ or problems with attention. Boys still have double the rate of girls, but females have seen a 55% increase between 2003 and 2011. Now, just above 7% of girls in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD.
A similar concept is seen in Hispanic children. White children still have double the rate, but Latinos have seen a whopping 84% increase in just eight years. They now stand at 8% of Hispanic children diagnosed with ADHD, while white have increased to a 14% of the total.
The question is why. According to Cleary, it’s tough to tell. It could be that both girls and Hispanics have been traditionally under-diagnosed. Or perhaps white children have been over-diagnosed. It’s a problem experts are facing today. It’s a matter of determining whether the cases of ADHD have definitely gone up or if the definition of the disorder has expanded with recent development.
It poses a problem for both doctors and parents. According to Dr. Andrew Adesman, e behavioral pediatric who was not involved in the study, the current 12% rate of ADHD definitely reflects an increase. However, that does not mean that 12% of children at any given point actually have the disorder. It’s very important to make the difference between ADHD diagnoses and ADHD cases for the purpose of not placing children on drugs long-term when they might not need it.
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