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  • Posted May 23, 2024

1 in 9 U.S. Children Have Been Diagnosed With ADHD

About 1 in 9 American children have ever received an ADHD diagnosis, slightly more than the number of kids currently being treated for the disorder, a new study shows.

About 7.1 million kids (11.4%) have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to findings published May 23 in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

Incidence appears to be rising: Approximately 1 million more children ages 3 to 17 had received an ADHD diagnosis in 2022 than in 2016, researchers found.

About 6.5 million children (10.5%) currently live with ADHD, or about 93% of those who've ever been diagnosed, researchers found.

Among kids currently dealing with ADHD, about 58% have moderate or severe ADHD and 78% have at least one other disorder, results show.  

Nearly 54% of current ADHD patients have been prescribed medication for the disorder, and 44% have received behavioral treatment in the past year, researchers found.

However, nearly one in three kids (30%) haven't received any ADHD-specific treatment, results show.

ADHD is more common in the United States than in other countries, the researchers found.

For the study, researchers analyzed more than 45,000 interviews conducted as part of the 2022 National Survey of Children's Health.

“Public awareness of ADHD has changed over time,” the researchers said.

“With increased awareness of symptoms related to attention regulation, ADHD has been increasingly recognized in girls, adolescents and adults,” they added in a journal news release. “Moreover, ADHD has previously been diagnosed at lower rates among children in some racial  and ethnic minority groups. With increased awareness, such gaps in diagnoses have been narrowing or closing.”

For example, researchers found that Asian and Hispanic kids have a lower prevalence of diagnosed ADHD than white children.

Also, children living in homes with lower education and income had a higher rate of ADHD than those in wealthier and better-educated families, results show.

And kids covered by public insurance programs like Medicaid or CHIP have higher rates of ADHD than kids covered by private insurance.

Certain parts of the country -- the Northeast, Midwest and South -- had higher rates of childhood ADHD than the West, researchers found. Additionally, ADHD is more common in rural or suburban areas than in urban areas.

These sort of disparities also extend to treatment of ADHD, researchers added.

More kids on public insurance are taking medication than those covered by private plans, and more children in the Midwest and South are taking meds than those in the West.

“Shifts in patterns of treatments may also be affected by changes in the demographic distribution of who receives ADHD diagnoses,” the researchers wrote.  “There is evidence that the sex difference for diagnosis of ADHD may be narrowing; in prior years, the ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with ADHD was more than 2:1.”

More information

The National Institute of Mental Health has more about ADHD in children and teens.

SOURCE: Taylor & Francis Group, news release, May 23, 2024

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