Prevalence of ADHD Diagnosis Increases for Every U.S. Demographic Group Except Mexicans

Health & Wellness on 08.22.11
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HealthDay News reports that a recent government survey found dramatic increases in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) over the last decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that an average of 9 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 5 and 17 were diagnosed with the disorder between 1988 and 2000.  Between 1988 and 2000, there were just under 7 percent of kids who received this diagnosis.

Also remarkable about this report was the shift in demographics of the disorder.  Between 1988 and 2000, it was mostly white children who were diagnosed with ADHD; but the most recent numbers show a comparable prevalence among African-Americancs and some Hispanic groups.

"We don't have the data to say for certain what explains these patterns, but I would caution against concluding that what we have here is a real increase in the occurrence of this condition," said study author Dr. Lara J. Akinbami, a National Health Statistics medical officer.

"In fact, it would be hard for me to argue that what we see here is a true change in prevalence," She continued. "Instead, I would say that most probably what we found has a lot to do with better access to health care among a broader group of children, and doctors who have become more and more familiar with this condition and now have better tools to screen for it. So, this is probably about better screening, rather than a real increase, and that means we may continue to see this pattern unfold."

While the rates of diagnosis have become fairly even across the board in terms of racial, geographic, and socio-economic groups, one group that has bucked the trend is Mexican children.  In both of the studies, they were diagnosed with ADHD significantly less frequently than their peers. Akinbami suggest that this is due to Mexican children having less access to health care than others, and to cultural norms that may discourage an ADHD diagnosis.

Note: the HealthDay report did not distinguish between 1st generation Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans, so I assume the survey lumped all the kids of Mexican heritage together.

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