Over a ten-year period, the prevalence of children diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) rose from 7% to 9% of all children, an increase of 28%, according to a report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the CDC. The period studied was from 1998-2000 through 2007-2009. The authors are not yet sure whether the statistics represent a real increase, or reflect more aggressive diagnosis and reporting. They believe it is probably mainly due to the latter. They added that this report concentrated on children aged between 5 and 17 years.

Lead researcher, Lara Akanbami, said:

“It’s unlikely that most of this is due
to a new epidemic of ADHD.”

Boys versus girls – more boys are affected by ADHD than girls. The prevalence among boys increased to 12.3% from 9.9%, while among girls it rose to 5.5% from 3.6% over the decade.

Ethnic groups – ADHD prevalence appears to have increased in every ethnic group in the USA, except in Mexican-American families, the authors wrote. Among non-Hispanic white children prevalence rose from 8.2% to 10.6%, and from 5.1% to 9.5% among non-Hispanic black children. While non-Hispanic white kids had a higher prevalence than all other race groups at the beginning of the ten-year period, by the end it was similar to those of non-Hispanic black and Puerto Rican children. Mexican children had the lowest prevalence.

ADHD prevalence and socioeconomic status – at the end of the 2007-2009 period, the prevalence of ADHD among kids in families whose incomes were at least three times the poverty level was 7.9%, compared to over 10% for those in poorer households.

Geographical variations – in Western states ADHD prevalence began at 5.5%, and hardly rose over the decade, while in the South and Midwest they increased significantly. The Northeast saw a considerable increase up to 2003, then a slight drop over the next three years, followed by another sharp rise. Akinbami and team wrote:

“Prevalence estimates in this report are based on parental report of the child ever receiving a diagnosis, and thus may be affected by the accuracy of parental memory (including recall bias), by differential access to healthcare between groups (diagnostic bias), or by willingness to report an ADHD diagnosis.”

According to a previous study, the authors explained, it is likely that only half of all kids with ADHD have been diagnosed.

ADHD is a common childhood mental health disorder. ADHD symptoms start during childhood and usually persist into adulthood. Individuals with ADHD symptoms have difficulties functioning academically, socially and within families. Experts are uncertain what the causes and risk factors of ADHD are. However, we know that genetic factors are involved.

According to the authors, an ADHD diagnosis involves many steps, including:

  • A medical exam
  • A checklist for rating signs and symptoms associated with ADHD
  • Reports from parents and/or caregivers
  • Reports from teachers
  • Sometimes reports from the child
  • An evaluation of coexisting conditions

According to experts, ADHD is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. A person with ADHD finds it harder to concentrate on something without being distracted, compared to other people. Controlling what they do or say, how much physical activity is appropriate for certain situations, is more difficult. Put simply, an individual with ADHD is much more restless and impulsive than other people.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist pediatricians and other health care professionals may use the following terms when describing an individual who is overactive and has problems concentrating – attention deficit, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hyperkinetic disorder, hyperactivity.

Normal childhood excitement and boisterous behavior is completely different from ADHD. A considerable number of children, especially younger ones, may be restless and inattentive and not have ADHD.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are three main types of ADHD; their definition depends on which symptoms are more pronounced:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Type – organizing or completing a task is extremely difficult. Paying attention to details, following instructions or conversations is challenging.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type – keeping still is difficult, the individual fidgets and talks a lot. A younger child may be jumping, climbing or running around all the time. The individual is restless, impulsive, grabs things, speaks out-of-turn (at inappropriate times), and interrupts others. Those with this type are prone to more accidents and injuries.
  • Combined Type – the person has all the signs and symptoms of the two types mentioned above, and they all stand out equally.

Written by Christian Nordqvist