Surge in ADHD Diagnoses in Children, Adolescents

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The number of American children and adolescents diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder jumped 43% between 2003 and 2011, and girls, who once were seen as less likely to have the condition, are especially seeing a sharp increase.

Using data from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Children's Survey from 2003-2011, Sean D. Cleary, PhD, MPH, of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, and colleagues found that the number of just adolescents diagnosed with ADHD surged 52% during the study period.

When the researchers just looked at the prevalence in girls over the period, they discovered the prevalence of ADHD in that population went from 4.3% in 2033 to 7.3% in 2011, a 54% jump. And among Hispanic youth, the prevalence of parent-reported ADHD rose by nearly 83%.

The new study was not designed to examine reasons for the surge in diagnoses. However, Cleary noted that it could be a true increase in the number of cases, or a tendency to over-diagnose the condition.

Determining the factors behind the rise is critical as most children with ADHD are given prescription medication, which some critics say are over-prescribed.

Inside the adult ADHD brain
A new analysis suggests that 5.8 million U.S. children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently have ADHD.

Twelve percent of U.S. children and teens had a diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2011, a number that has jumped by 43% since 2003, according to a large national study based on parental reports of an ADHD diagnosis. This analysis suggests that 5.8 million U.S. children ages 5 to 17 now have this diagnosis, which can cause inattention and behavioral difficulties, says lead researcher Sean D. Cleary, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

The report, published online today in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, was based on data sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a National Children's Survey from 2003-2011.

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