ADHD Rates Are Increasing - in Pediatrics, ADHD/ADD from MedPage Today

Medical News: ADHD Rates Are Increasing - in Pediatrics, ADHD/ADD from MedPage Today

MedPage Today reports that more parents are reporting that their children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point in their lives than earlier in the decade, this according to the US Centre for Disease Control. The percentage of children and teens ranging from ages 4 to 17 with a "parent-reported ADHD diagnosis" increased from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007. These are children and adolescents whose parents report their children have ADHD according to what they have been told by any medical provider. This does not mean a formal diagnosis took place, only that a medical provider gave them this opinion at some point. This data was reported by researchers from the agency's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and from the National Center for Health Statistics reported in the Nov. 12 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

These findings are consistent with other reports using different sets of data. According to the editorial notes from this article, "Increasing rates of estimated ADHD prevalence might indicate an actual increase in the number of cases of ADHD or changes in diagnostic practice over time, which might have been influenced by increased awareness of the disorder over the period of study...additional studies are needed to understand other geographic or environmental risk factors associated with rates of ADHD diagnosis, such as state-based policy and healthcare provider characteristics," the editors continued. "Ongoing surveillance is critical to understanding the public health effect of ADHD and the needs of a growing number of families affected by this disorder."

The 22% relative increase in the number of parents who answered yes to this question about being told their child may have ADHD over the interval from 2003 to 2007 shows an increase of roughly 1 million children (from 4.4 million to 5.4 million) who were ever diagnosed with ADHD. The rate of parent-reported ADHD was significantly higher in 2007 for almost all demographic subgroups, with the greatest jumps in teens ages 15 to 17 (+42%), multiracial and Hispanic children (+46% and +53%, respectively), and children with a primary language other than English (+82%).

Twelve US states saw significant increases in the rate of parent-reported ADHD ranging from 31.7% to 67.1%; none had a significant decrease. "Changes in the sociodemographic composition of states or state-based policy or practice changes, such as widespread behavioral health screening, might have contributed to the increasing rates," according to the MMWR editors. In other words, the increase may be real, and may be due to the fact that over the years more children have been either informally or formally screened. Many of these subgroups have medical care and options available to them that were not there several years ago due to changes in government programs and the availability of medical services to children and families with lower incomes.

A question about whether the child currently had ADHD was added to the 2007 survey. Of those who had ever received a diagnosis, 78% currently were found to have the disorder. Of those with current ADHD, two-thirds were taking medications for it. Overall, 4.8% of the children included in the survey were taking medications for ADHD. The MMWR editors noted that the analysis was limited by the use of parental report for ADHD diagnosis, the fact that the survey included a question about current ADHD status in 2007 only, and the inability to reach families that did not have a landline telephone. Still the data demonstrates that there is most likely fewer children being treated than should be. Regretfully the survey did not ask direct questions about what services or interventions were being used, or where helpful.


This blog is not offered as medical advice or as a means of diagnosing or treating ADHD or any other disorder. Don't go on line and take an ADHD "test." The diagnosis is complex, and it involves not just looking for symptoms of ADHD, but also ruling out other disorders that might look just like ADHD. So avoid these on line "tests" which are nothing more than a collection of symptoms. You need to see a licensed or registered professional for that. Medical doctors can diagnose ADHD, but the diagnosis is complex and often they will make a referral to a Registered Psychologist. You can obtain a referral from the British Columbia Psychological Association for a psychologist near you.

My web page lists a number of resources you can make use of yourself in dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Please visit it at or one of my other sites at either Psychology Today, AAMFT, PSYRIS or my professional site.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) assessment and treatment services are offered for individuals, couples, families, children and adolescents in the Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Moody, New Westminster and Maple Ridge areas of the lower mainland. This includes neuro-developmental assessments, psycho-education and cognitive behaviour therapy. I also provide diagnostic assessments for autism and Asperger's Disorder in my Burnaby office.

Dr. Jim Roche
Registered Psychologist, British Columbia 01610