That’s an increase of more than 2 percent in ADHD diagnoses compared to a decade ago, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.
The new findings don’t necessarily mean that more kids are developing ADHD, said the study’s lead author Dr. Lara Akinbami, a medical officer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
“This change is reflected in numerous national data sets,” Akinbami explained. “It’s robust and real. But we can’t say whether it’s a true increase in prevalence or just better detection.”
For her part, Akinbami suspects that health professionals and parents are just more tuned in to the diagnosis. “It probably indicates that children have a better opportunity to get diagnosed now, rather than a huge change in the numbers of children with ADHD,” she said.
The new data are from a national survey that included approximately 40,000 households per year, Akinbami explained. From that survey, researchers collected information on 8,000 to 12,000 children each year in a nationally representative sample.
Akinbami and her colleagues found that ADHD diagnoses rose almost equally in boys and girls between 1998 and 2009. Diagnoses in girls climbed from 3.6 percent to 5.5 percent, as compared to 9.9 percent to 12.3 percent in boys.
The biggest surprise for Akinbami and her colleagues was the rise in diagnoses in minority and poor children, who, with the exception of Mexican children, have more than caught up with the rest of the population.
One finding that has the researchers puzzled is the continued low rate of ADHD in the Western states, where the diagnosis has ranged from 5.4 percent to 5.8 percent over the last decade.