A growing number of children and teenagers are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers from the CDC have found that an average of 9 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD between 2007 and 2009. This is a 29 percent increase over the rate of 7 percent the researchers found for ADHD diagnoses in a similar three year period from 1998 to 2000 in teens and children.
The new data are from a national survey conducted from 2007 to 2009 that included approximately 40,000 households. Researchers collected information on 8,000 to 12,000 children each of the three years in a nationally representative sample.
Dr. Lara Akinbami, the lead author of the new report and a medical officer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, cautioned against reading too much into the new numbers, however: “I would say that most probably what we found has a lot to do with better access to health care among a broader group of children, and doctors who have become more and more familiar with this condition and now have better tools to screen for it. So, this is probably about better screening, rather than a real increase, and that means we may continue to see this pattern unfold.”
Boys suffered a greater increase rate in ADHD overall, rising from about 10 percent in the 1998-2000 period, to 12.3 percent in the most recent study. The prevalence rate among girls rose from 3.6 percent to 5.5 percent.
ADHD rates also have narrowed among different racial groups, with the gap closing between their differences. Whites, blacks and some Hispanic groups now share closer prevalence rates than they have in the past. One group’s prevalence rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have actually decreased: Puerto Rican children. And Mexican children continue to enjoy the lowest rates of ADHD among all children and teens — more than half the rates of white children.
Poorer households also fared worse in the most recent study, with consistently higher rates of ADHD. Households where family income was below the poverty line or where it was double the poverty line had higher rates of ADHD — 10 to 11 percent (compared to the national average of 9 percent).
ADHD in western states continues to remain lower than the national average, with no clear explanation. Diagnosis of ADHD in states like Colorado and Oregon has ranged from 5.4 percent to 5.8 percent over the last decade.
The new report was published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics today.