ADHD rates rising sharply in US kids

ADHD rates rising sharply in U.S. kids

(HealthDay)—The number of ADHD diagnoses among children has risen dramatically in the past two decades, going from 6 percent to 10 percent, a new report shows.

However, it's still an open question whether all of these diagnoses represent a true increase in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) among kids, said senior researcher Dr. Wei Bao. He's an assistant professor of epidemiology with the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

"It is likely that we are better at diagnosing ADHD, given physicians' increased awareness of ADHD through continued medical education efforts," Bao said. "This may contribute partly to the increase."

Research has uncovered a host of factors that could increase a child's risk of ADHD, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, or moms smoking or taking drugs during pregnancy, he explained.

But it might be that doctors are better at detecting the condition in kids who might have had ADHD but would have been missed in earlier years, Bao added.

Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology with the University of California, Berkeley, said it's also possible that doctors are handing out unwarranted ADHD diagnoses.

"Substandard diagnostic practices, in the face of increasing pressures for performance, may be fueling rates of increase of the diagnosis that outstrip the true prevalence of the condition," said Hinshaw, who wasn't involved with the study. "This is a shame, because ADHD yields substantial impairments in key domains of kids' lives."

To study ADHD trends, Bao and his colleagues reviewed 20 years of data from the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted annually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The investigators looked at statistics from 1997 to 2017.

In that time, ADHD diagnoses increased in both boys and girls, the researchers found.

About 14 percent of boys were diagnosed with ADHD in 2017, compared with 9 percent back in 1997.

Meanwhile, diagnoses in girls hit 6 percent, up from 3 percent two decades ago.

All subgroups by age, race, family income and geographic location showed a significant increase between 1997 and 2016, the study found.

White and black children were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as Hispanic kids, 12 percent and 13 percent versus 6 percent, respectively.

The findings were published Aug. 31 in the journal JAMA Open.

New research into ADHD has led to broader diagnostic criteria for the disorder, which naturally would increase diagnosis rates, said psychologist Ronald Brown, dean for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Allied Health Sciences.

It used to be that ADHD could not be diagnosed until children were at school age, but research found that the condition can be identified in preschoolers, explained Brown, who had no role in the study.

Researchers also discovered that ADHD could persist into a person's teenage years and adulthood, he added.

"For adolescents, they used to believe kids outgrow the disorder," Brown said. "Now we know the disorder continues, that this is a lifelong disorder."

Diagnostic criteria also have expanded so that kids who only suffer from inattention can be diagnosed with ADHD, Brown said. A child no longer has to be hyperactive or impulsive to receive a diagnosis.

"We weren't as cognizant of the fact that children could have attentional problems if they didn't disrupt anybody else," Brown said. "If they didn't have overactivity or other problems, then they didn't really come to the identification of clinicians."

ADHD also likely is being diagnosed more often in low-income children and teens who didn't have access to health care prior to the Affordable Care Act, Brown said.

However, Hinshaw said he's skeptical whether the new data "reflect a continuing rise in the true prevalence of ADHD, versus the diagnosed prevalence."

"We know, for example, that most children are diagnosed by general pediatricians rather than specialists, and that the average length of diagnostic 'assessment' by such pediatricians is depressingly short and cursory," Hinshaw said.

"It's possible that too many youths are being overdiagnosed, if evidence-based diagnostic procedures aren't being used," Hinshaw said.

Explore further

Girls have ADHD too – here's why doctors may be missing them

More information: Wei Bao, Aug. 31, 2018, JAMA Open, … etworkopen.2018.1471

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Aug 31, 2018
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Aug 31, 2018
That is true but it is also, as physical origins go...the toxic environment of a chemical stew, that is the real root cause.

To say it is a Dx issue is very much true but that can also be used as a cover story for corporations that have run rampant in the EPA and the FDA.

I know this through contacts with deputy directors in each. Not just via the public data on appointments. These corporates then fired the best and inserted their own Trojans.

The appointed heads of each have been corporate shills or directly coming out of the corporations that were looking for chemical and drug approvals, safety approvals and whatnot.

And they really did rubber stamp corporate research and they really are getting caught lying their faces off about their studies and results.

So it is only vestigially the diagnosis and the manual that is at fault, it is the incredibly toxic environment that surrounded their conception..through to their adolescence.

and now humanity pays the price.

Sep 01, 2018
Yup it's toxins. BPA in the environment. Flame retardant. That crap messes w/ fetal development. Some people in government don't care about all that.

Sep 02, 2018
If you're gonna talk about diagnosis issues in the article, keep the headline hyperbole free - it's the diagnosis rates that are rising here. I wouldn't trust a US medical statistic on a good day.

Also, life changes - 21st century information highway life is not 16th century farm life. Brains will evolve to process this. Get used to it, it's all a funky experiment and these conditions are neither deadly, nor need to be looked in an essentially negative light.

Sep 02, 2018
"...we are better at diagnosing ADHD..."
No. In the USA, every spoiled extroverted child is diagnosed with ADHD. The definition of ADHD is now so broad that you are able to put out more diagnoses. It has nothing to do with the rate of actual ADHD. You are likely correctly diagnosing a higher portion of actual ADHD, but you are also diagnosing an astounding number of false positives.

The same applies to many other phychiatric diagnoses, most notably depression. The definition of depression has recently been expanded, basically to include feeling bad because of real external reasons. That's completely preposterous. I guess somebody wants every single human to have a psychiatric diagnose and feed them loads of unpolished psychitric drugs, right? Because that's such a good thing.

Sep 02, 2018
An increase in ADD and other disruptive behaviors was predicted back in the 1990s from extensive genetic analysis. They found a strong link between ADD and certain genes. And these individuals reproduce much faster than the general public. Read "The Gene Bomb" and "Tourette Syndrome and Human Behavior" by David Cummings, M.D. for an eye opener.

Sep 02, 2018
The terms "rambunctious", "stubbornly independent", "inventively exuberant", "creative curiosity", "flouting authority", "noisy skylarking" and "disobedient nonconformity" used to be the definitions of adolescence.

It is just easier and less exhausting to force children into the box of conformity and officially sanctioned social norms.

By diagnosing the difficult to control child with the label of ADD and stuff them with drugs. Save a lot of Sacred Taxpayer money and Sacred Submission to Right-minded conformity to church and state.

Sep 02, 2018
Here on pysdotorg last year a report confirmed that ADHD was indeed mental retardation. Corporate greed shares the limelight with depleted farm land and toxic animal feed. Buy local and organic, raise a garden, can and dehydrate, eat eggs, butter and milk daily.

Sep 03, 2018
"ADHD was indeed mental retardation"... oh BS, humans have not had to sit in a classroom all day throughout human history, till the past 100 years. This is largely a male phenomenon, males who's genes say; get to work, build a hut, till a field, or go to the savannah and hunt.

Sep 03, 2018
katesisco: Things are better now than ever before in human history... less crime, less poverty, more electricity, longer life spans; throughout the world. No one wants poisons or pollution.

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