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    ADHD: What groups are seeing a diagnosis increase?

    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses are on the rise, and the number of new cases in adolescent females has outpaced that of males, according to a new report.

    The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, reveals that diagnoses of ADHD has risen from 7.8% in 2003 to 11% in 2011, resulting in an overall prevalence of 5% to 11% in children aged 5 to 17 years.

    The report outlines prevalence among ethnic and socioeconomic groups, revealing that prevalence is growing in demographic groups that were previously in the minority for ADHD diagnoses.

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    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in childhood, and is defined as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that negatively impacts school and educational or work performance. It is one of the few mental health disorders where childhood onset is part of the diagnostic criteria, notes one of the study authors, Sean Cleary PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health and Health Services and the director of the MS and PhD Programs in epidemiology at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is most commonly treated by a combination of drug therapy, behavioral parent training, behavioral classroom modifications, and sometimes individualized education programs, according to the report. While these interventions are generally effective, symptoms of ADHD can persist into adulthood, Cleary writes, leading many healthcare professionals to view ADHD as a lifelong disorder.

    The paper notes that the increase of ADHD prevalence among school-age children is well-documented, despite variances in the estimates of prevalence amongst government agencies, but that its cause is unknown. Some believe that the rise in ADHD cases may be attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria and increased public awareness, especially since many cases of ADHD are parent-reported. Black, Hispanic, and “other” racial groups were significantly less likely to have parent-reported diagnoses, according to the report.

    Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD in children aged 5 to 17 years has risen from 8.4% in 2003 to 12% in 2011, corresponding to a 43% increase based on population size, according to the report.

    NEXT: What may have led to increase in prevalence of parent-report ADHD?

    Rachael Zimlich, RN
    Rachael Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare ...

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