A new national survey reports some attention-getting numbers. The first shocking number is that about nine-percent of children in the United States have ADHD. The second shocking statistic is that only about 30% of these children are getting medical treatment for their ADHD.
There have been a number of similar research studies done through the years, but this study is considered important because it used the most modern diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder today, the DSM-IV.
The ADHD Information Library has written and maintained for years that about 5% of kids in the US had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and that it has been both over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed. ADHD has been over-diagnosed in the sense that often the doctor evaluations leading to a diagnosis don’t consider the differential diagnoses that need to be ruled out before diagnosing an Attention Disorder, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, head injuries, tourette syndrome, bipolar disorder, and more (see http://newideas.net/adhd/differential-diagnosis ).
Our concern is that this study may have fallen into the same trap. Simply reporting that nine-percent of children meet the DSM-IV criteria for ADHD is not the same as nine-percent of children having ADHD. Rather, many children who meet the criteria for ADHD actually have some other disorder.
And we have reported that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is under-diagnosed in the sense that only about one-third of the children who actually have ADHD ever get proper medical treatment. This survey confirms that estimate.
“There is a perception that ADHD is overdiagnosed and overtreated,” said lead researcher Dr. Tanya E. Froehlich, from Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. “But our study shows that for those who meet the criteria for ADHD, the opposite problem — underdiagnosis and undertreatment — seems to be occurring.” The researchers found that some 2.4 million children between the ages of 8 and 15 meet the medical definition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder but an estimated 1.2 million children haven’t been diagnosed or treated, Froehlich said, adding that “girls were more likely to be undiagnosed.”
The researchers examined the data on over three thousand children who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Using interviews, the researchers were able to establish whether a child met the diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They also used data from physicians and the numbers of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications being used to establish diagnosis and treatment patterns, according to the report.
The researchers found that of the 8.7 percent of children who met the criteria for ADHD, only about one-half of them had been diagnosed with ADHD and only 32 percent were prescribed medications.
Froehlich said more needs to be done to identify and treat children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. “It’s not a trivial disorder,” she said. “It can have an impact on the child and the family if it is not diagnosed and addressed. We need to redouble our efforts to help doctors spot the symptoms of ADHD and make an accurate diagnosis.”
This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician or health care provider. Always consult your physician about ADHD.