Cases of ADHD surge in US kids

(credit: ND Strupler/Flickr)

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children in the US, is becoming even more commonly diagnosed, according to a new analysis of nationwide data.

Between 2003 and 2011, prevalence of the disorder in kids aged five to 17 rose from 8.4 percent to 12 percent, a 42.9 percent increase, researchers report. That means that 5.8 million children and young adults—about one in eight—in the US now have the diagnosis. Such a diagnosis identifies recurring hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness that hinders work, play, and school activities. The surge, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, affected kids across different races/ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, age groups, and genders—although, to varying degrees.

“We aren’t able to get at the driving forces behind the trends,” Sean Cleary, coauthor of the study and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University, told Ars. But, he said, speculation includes greater recognition of the symptoms, as well as over diagnosis. The latter, is of course a concern, Cleary said. But so is under diagnosis, he added. If ADHD is not caught and treated early, symptoms and problems could persist into adulthood, he explained.

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