New research conducted by Kaiser Permanente indicates that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has risen by 24 percent in nine years (2001-2010). The study was published in JAMA publications.
According to CBS News published on Jan 22, 2012, “Compiled statistics show that 4.9 percent of children between the ages of 5 to 11 who were patients at Kaiser Permamente Southern California branches between 2001 and 2010 were diagnosed with ADHD. The overall rate of ADHD diagnosis was found to be 3.1 percent of children, up from 2.5 percent in 2001.”
The National Institutes of Health report ADHD as the most common behavior disorder in school-age children. ADHD affects more boys than girls. Although there is still no clear cause, some scientists believe the disorder may run in families.
CBS News online goes on to say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following symptoms: “Having a hard time paying attention, daydreaming, not listening, being easily distracted, forgetfulness, inability to stay still, talking too much, not being able to play quietly, acting and speaking without thinking, having trouble taking turns and frequently interrupting others.” Many children with ADHD have another developmental or behavioral problem as well.
Why is there such a large increase in reported cases of ADHD?
More doctors and parents are aware of the symptoms of ADHD and therefore the causes are reported more often. Dr. Roberto Tuchman, director of the autism and neurodevelopment program at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, told HealthDay, "As we get more sophisticated in our ability to recognize the symptoms and the behaviors that constitute ADHD, we are beginning to identify more people with it," The doctor also believes that ADHD is reported more in wealthier communities where competition and stress to success could be a triggering factor.
On the other hand, according to Science Daily, Dr. Todd Elder published his own report on ADHD in the Journal of Health Economics back in 2010. He concluded that close to 1 million children in the United States have been misdiagnosed with ADHD because they are the youngest children in their classes and do not have the same maturity as their peers. The children are often prescribed Ritalin to quell their impulsive tendencies.
“ADHD diagnoses depend on a child's age relative to classmates and the teacher's perceptions of whether the child has symptoms. If a child is behaving poorly, if he's inattentive, if he can't sit still, it may simply be because he's 5 and the other kids are 6," said Elder, assistant professor of economics. "There's a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD."
Furthermore, “There are no neurological markers for ADHD (such as a blood test), and experts disagree on its prevalence, fueling intense public debate about whether ADHD is under-diagnosed or over-diagnosed.”
Thus, it is very difficult to conclude how many children have ADHD when there are no biological markers and much of the diagnosis is left to observation and perception.