A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics on Jan. 21, 2013, indicates “cultural factors that may influence the treatment-seeking behavior of some groups” may be the cause of an extraordinary increase in the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose dramatically between 2001 and 2010.
The study examined the electronic health records of nearly 850,000 ethnically diverse children, aged 5 to 11 years, who received care at Kaiser Permanente Southern California between 2001 and 2010.
Researchers found that the incidence of newly diagnosed ADHD cases rose from 2.5 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2010 - a relative increase of 24 percent. Black children showed the greatest increase in ADHD incidence, from 2.6 percent of all black children 5 to 11 years of age in 2001 to 4.1 percent in 2010, a 70 percent relative increase. Rates among Hispanic children showed a 60 percent relative increase, from 1.7 percent in 2001 to 2.5 percent in 2010. White children showed a 30 percent relative increase, from 4.7 percent in 2001 to 5.6 percent in 2010, while rates for Asian/Pacific Islander children and other racial groups remained unchanged over time. The study also showed there was a 90 percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD among non-Hispanic black girls during the same nine-year period.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood. The CDC estimates that between 4 percent and 12 percent of school-aged children have the disorder, which generates health care costs of between $36 billion and $52 billion per year. Children with ADHD are more likely to experience learning problems, miss school, become injured and experience troublesome relationships with family members and peers.
The origin of ADHD is not fully understood, but some emerging evidence suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play important roles.
The enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 expands Medicare benefits to cover more costs of ADHD and increases payment to physicians to treat ADHD in children. There is therefore a new incentive to diagnose ADHD - money.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website on the day of publication.