According to a new study, over 10% of children in the US have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), signalling the soar of the condition in recent years especially among girls and minority groups.
The fact that young females, Hispanics and older kids have been diagnosed at higher rates could be because of better screening and more monitoring among previously under-diagnosed groups, according to experts.
Now, approximately 5.8 million children aged five to 17 years are diagnosed with ADHD, with symptoms such as social and behavioral problems and challenges in school, according to case analyses reported by parents from 2003 to 2011. During the study period, rates rose 43% overall from 8.4% in 2003 to 12% by 2011.
"The sharper increase among girls was a surprise primarily because ADHD is typically diagnosed among boys," said study co-author Sean Cleary, a public health researcher at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The reason that females are being diagnosed at higher levels may be based on a greater recognition of observed symptoms that traditionally had not been considered a sign of the condition, such as being withdrawn and internalizing.
Cleary and co-author Kevin Collins of Mathematica Policy Research studied information on over 190,000 children from US surveys made in 2003, 2007, and 2011.
Boys made up the majority of the cases and diagnosis for them reached 40% during the period of the study. Age was also a part of the rate gains with a 33% rise among youngsters from five to nine, a 47% surge for those 10 to 14, and a 52% climb for teens 15 to 17.
White young people continued to make up the majority of ADHD cases, but diagnosis rates rose much higher for black and Hispanic children. The diagnoses for Hispanic kids rose 83% over the period of the study. For African-American youth, diagnoses rose 58%.
Quyen Epstein-Ngo, a psychology researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the study, said that in the last few years, an increased willingness to understand that older adolescents who continue to struggle with ADHD symptoms need more professional help and support has taken place.
The study was based on responses to a single survey question and does not reflect knowing why children were diagnosed or what their treatment processes were, said Dr. Timothy Wilens, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The report was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and used data from the National Survey of Children's Health. They focused on the question that asked parents if they had been told by a doctor or a health care provider that their child had ADHD, reports Ashley Welch for CBS News.
Cleary says of his research that the increase in diagnoses could be the result of a tendency to over-diagnose ADHD, or the increase could be an accurate measurement of a rise in the condition. He added that there are very few studies before this one that examined the prevalence of ADHD as reported by parents, writes Rick Nauert of PsychCentral.
In 1968 the disorder was officially accepted as a condition and was referred to as "hyperkinetic impulse disorder." In the DSM-III in 1980, the disorder was renamed Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Seven years after that, it got the name that is used today, ADHD, says Abby Haglage of The Daily Beast.
A paper written by Harvard University's Dr. Joseph Biederman found that girls with the condition are more susceptible to mood disorders and low self-esteem. A UC Berkeley study found females with ADHD between 17 and 24 are at higher risk of self-harming and attempting suicide.
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, one of the first physicians to study girls with the disorder, says she is working with the science world to get a better understanding of how ADHD affects woman and why.