9.7% of children aged between 4 and 17 years had at some time been diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2007, up from 7.8% in 2003, a 21.8% increase, according to data published today in the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The authors say their findings reveal the considerable impact of ADHD.

Experts say ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral disorder with an onset during childhood. However, not only children are affected. A significant number of adults continue having signs and symptoms. ADHD is defined as a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. People with ADHD find it much harder to concentrate on something without being distracted, compared to others. They find it hard to control what they are doing or saying. There may be problems on controlling how much physical activity is suitable for a particular situation. Put simply – the person is much more impulsive and restless than other people.

Normal childhood excitement and boisterous behavior is not ADHD. Very young children are naturally less attentive and more restless than older people. The restlessness and impulsivity of a child with ADHD goes beyond what is normally expected for a child of that age.

The authors write that there are inappropriate levels of inattention and hyperactivity which undermine the individual’s functioning in social, family and academic settings.

Below is some highlighted information from the report, all data refer to children aged from 4 to 17 years:

  • 5.4 million children had at some time been diagnosed with ADHD in 2007
  • 78% of those 5.4 million children had ADHD at the time their parents were asked, a total of 4.1 million children, or 7.2% of all children
  • 46.7% of those with ADHD had mild symptoms
  • 39.5% of those with ADHD had moderate symptoms
  • 13.8% of those with ADHD had severe symptoms
  • 13.2% of boys and 5.6% of girls had ADHD
  • 13.6% of children covered by Medicaid had ADHD
  • 14.2% of multiracial children had ADHD
  • 66.3% of those currently with ADHD were taking medication for it, i.e. 2.7 million children, or 4.7% of all children
  • Boys aged 11 to 14 years with current ADHD were the most likely ones to be on medication
  • Girls with current ADHD were more likely to be on medication as they got older
  • 85.9% of children with severe symptoms were on medication, compared to 71.6% of those whose symptoms were moderate, and 56.4% of those with mild symptoms.
  • The increase in prevalence of ADHD from 2003 to 2007 was most noticeable among older teenagers, multiracial children, Hispanic children, and those whose primary language was not English

Typically, a child with ADHD will have some of the signs and symptoms listed below:

  • Excessive restlessness, overactivity, fidgeting
  • The child may be constantly chattering
  • The child has a tendency to interrupt others when they are talking
  • Concentration (focus) on specific tasks is shorter, compared to other children of the same age
  • The child is inattentive
  • Waiting his/her turn may be especially difficult

“Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children – United States, 2003 and 2007”
SN Visser, MS, RH Bitsko, PhD, ML Danielson, MSPH, R Perou, PhD, SJ Blumberg, PhD
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) November 12, 2010 / 59(44);1439-1443

Written by Christian Nordqvist