ADHD: Keeping Track of Numbers
Learn more about attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and discover how CDC’s research helps us all understand how ADHD impacts children and families.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood and often lasts into adulthood. More than 1 in 10 children, 4-17 years of age in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD by a health care provider, based on parent report.1 Costs associated with childhood ADHD have been conservatively estimated at $38 billion or more, annually.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to understand how this disorder affects children and families, so that more can be done for treatment and prevention. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, may act without thinking about what the result will be, or, in some cases, may be overly active. Many children have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, these symptoms may become a disorder if they continue over time and cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends. ADHD may put a child at risk for other concerns and conditions and the impact may continue into adulthood. Children with ADHD:
- often have other behavioral disorders
- may have problems with making or keeping friends
- may show risky behavior that can lead to injury
- may have problems succeeding in school
What CDC is doing to help children with ADHD reach their full potential
It is important to know just how many children might have ADHD, and how the estimates change over time. Accurate data on ADHD are needed for service providers, health professionals, school systems and families. The CDC uses national surveys that ask parents about their child’s health to learn more about the:
- number of children with ADHD
- type and use of ADHD treatments
- number of children taking medication for ADHD
- impact of ADHD on children and their families
The information in these surveys is based on reports by parents about a diagnosis given by a health care provider. A study found that the estimates of how many children have ADHD based on parent reports and estimates based on medical records are similar.1
How many children are affected?
A study from 2013 looked at data from the third National Survey of Children’s Health conducted in 2011 – 2012 on children between the ages of 4 and 17 (school-aged children) in the United States and compared it with data collected in 2003-2004 and 2007-2008.1 Some of the key findings from this study are:
- In 2011, 11% of school-aged children had an ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider, as reported by parents. This is an increase from 7.8% in 2003 and 9.5% in 2007
- About half of children with ADHD were diagnosed by 6 years of age, but children with more severe symptoms were often diagnosed earlier
- The percentage of school-aged children with ADHD in 2011 ranged from about 4% in Nevada to about 15% in Arkansas and Kentucky
- The percentage of children reported by their parents as taking medication for ADHD increased by 28%, from 4.8% in 2007 to 6.1% in 2011
- The percentage of children reported by their parents as taking medication for ADHD ranged from about 2% in Nevada to about 10% in Louisiana and Kentucky
- More US children were reported by their parents as receiving treatment for ADHD in 2011 compared to 2007
- Treatment gaps may still exist because nearly 1 in 5 children with ADHD weren’t receiving medication for ADHD or mental health counseling
What to do if you are concerned
In order to make sure your child reaches his or her full potential, it is very important to get help for ADHD as early as possible. Although there isn’t a known cure for ADHD, it can be successfully managed and some symptoms may improve as the child ages. If you have concerns about ADHD, the first step is to get an accurate diagnosis. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other disorders, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. You can take your child to your pediatrician or family practice doctor or a specialist such as a child psychologist, child psychiatrist, or developmental pediatrician, or you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older). In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, treatment recommendations differ by age. Younger children should start with behavior treatment before medication; older children may start with medication, but behavior therapy can also help. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way. There are many treatment options, so parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment—teachers, coaches, therapists, and other family members. Taking advantage of all the resources available will help you guide your child toward success. To provide you with information on ADHD, symptoms, and treatment, CDC sponsors the National Resource Center on ADHD , a program of CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
- Visser SN, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Kogan MD, Ghandour RM, Perou R, Blumberg SJ. Trends in the Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosed and Medicated ADHD: United States, 2003—2011. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013
- Doshi JA , Hodgkins P , Kahle J , Sikirica V , Cangelosi MJ , Setyawan J , Erder MH , Neumann PJ. Economic impact of childhood and adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the United States. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;51(10):990-1002.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.07.008. Epub 2012 Sep 5.
- Page last reviewed: September 15, 2017
- Page last updated: September 15, 2017
- Content source:
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Division of Human Development and Disability
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs