ADHD Diagnoses Rising Among U.S. Kids, Study Finds
By Amy Norton
TUESDAY, Dec. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A growing number of U.S. children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — with girls and Hispanic children showing the biggest increases of all, a new study shows.
Researchers found that in 2011, an estimated 12 percent of U.S. kids aged 5 to 17 had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. That was up 43 percent from 2003.
“But what struck us the most were the increases among girls and Hispanic children,” said senior researcher Sean Cleary, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.
Historically, ADHD has been most often diagnosed in boys, particularly white boys. But Cleary’s team found that the trends are shifting.
ADHD is still almost twice as common among white kids compared with their Hispanic peers — 14 percent versus less than 8 percent. But between 2003 and 2011, the prevalence among Hispanic children rose by 83 percent, compared with a 46 percent increase among white children, the study found.
Similarly, boys still have more than double the rate of ADHD compared to girls. But the prevalence among girls increased by 55 percent during the study period: By 2011, slightly more than 7 percent of girls had ever been diagnosed with the disorder, Cleary’s team reported in the Dec. 8 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
The question is why, Cleary said.
“Have doctors been traditionally underdiagnosing this in girls and Hispanic children?” he said. “Or is this a true increase in the incidence of ADHD? Or is this overdiagnosis? We can’t say.”
It’s possible, according to Cleary, that the increase among Hispanic children reflects a growing cultural acceptance of ADHD — or the wider availability of mental health resources in Spanish.
As for the increase among girls, Cleary noted that ADHD symptoms can be different for girls and boys. Boys’ symptoms are often more overt, and they may stand out as “troublemakers.” With girls, attention issues seem more common — so they may have problems with daydreaming, Cleary said, or with getting schoolwork done.