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Rates of Parent-Reported ADHD Increasing

A million more kids had a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis in 2007 compared to 2003; a 22% increase in 4 years. 4.1 million had a current diagnosis in 2007; 2.7 million were taking ADHD medications.

Chart: Parent-Reported Diagnosis of ADHD. Ever diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood, and often persists into adulthood. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be) and, in some cases, are overly active. CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has published a new study: "Increasing prevalence of parent-reported attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among children: United States, 2003-2007."

A 2003 survey of parents (the National Survey of Children's Health) found an estimated 7.8% of children in the US aged 4-17 years had ever been given a diagnosis of ADHD. This new CDC study looked at the results of the second administration of the National Survey of Children's Health in 2007.

This study found that the rate of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis among children 4-17 years of age increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007, from 7.8% to 9.5%. It also noted that the patterns of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis are changing in the United States.

Parents of an estimated 5.4 million children in the United States reported a history of ADHD diagnosis in 2007. That is nearly one in ten school-age children who had been given an ADHD diagnosis; a million more children than were reported in 2003.

Twelve states had significant increases in parent-reported ADHD, suggesting variation in diagnostic practice that may be determined by state-specific factors. In 2007, rates ranged from a low of 5.6% in Nevada to a high of 15.6% in North Carolina.

Approximately three quarters (78%) of children with a history of an ADHD diagnosis currently had the condition, 4.1 million children in total. Of these children, 2.7 million were currently taking medication for ADHD.

Among older teens, parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 42% and among Hispanic children it increased 53%, suggesting that the epidemiology of ADHD in the United States may be changing. Hispanics have historically had some of the lowest rates of ADHD. Although still lower than non-Hispanics, the relatively large magnitude of change noted in this study suggests that there may have been a shift in the cultural perception of the disorder or a change in diagnostic practice for Hispanics.

Studies indicate that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder as compared to girls. Consistent with those studies, our two MMWR reports on ADHD indicate a male:female ratio of about 2.5:1.

Children with ADHD are more likely to have problems in school, have strained family and peer relationships, and suffer more injuries than children without ADHD. Adults who were children with ADHD are more likely to be underemployed, more likely to enter the justice system, and more likely to have marriages that end in divorce.

Treatment guidelines have been developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Both recommend a combination of behavioral and medical (medication) interventions, depending on severity, functional impact, and family preference.

Map: States with Significant Increases in ADHD Prevalence (ever diagnosed) – US: 2003-2007. Prevalence significantly increased between 2003 and 2007 in twelve states, and their percentage increases are shown on the map. Arkansas (AR): 32.3%; Colorado (CO): 52.0%; Delaware (DE): 43.9%; Indiana (IN): 67.1%; Louisiana (LA): 37.9%; Missouri (MO): 40.3%; New York (NY): 46.0%; North Carolina (NC): 62.5%; Ohio (OH): 49.4%; Oklahoma (OK): 35.8%; Vermont (VT): 43.5%.

Data Source

CDC. Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children --- United States, 2003 and 2007. MMWR 2010;59(44);1439-1443.

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