About 1 in 9 children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD

For children in the US, ADHD diagnoses are on the rise

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More than 7 million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point. This is about 1 million more kids than had been diagnosed with the condition as of 2016, the last time nationwide estimates were calculated.

However, this increase is not necessarily cause for concern. “I don’t think it’s that huge of a jump,” says Scott Krakower at Northwell Health in New York, who was not involved with the study. “By and large, [childhood ADHD] has hovered around 10 per cent for years.”

Melissa Danielson at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues estimated the prevalence of childhood ADHD using a subset of data from the 2022 National Survey of Children’s Health, which included a nationally representative sample of more than 45,000 children aged 3 to 17 living in the US.

Using this data, the researchers estimated that 7.1 million children in this age group – or roughly 1 in 9 – in the US had an ADHD diagnosis in 2022. The same was true for about 6.1 million children, or about 1 in 10, in the previous survey conducted in 2016, indicating an increase in the prevalence of the condition.

The growth in diagnoses could partly be due to more awareness about the condition, says Danielson. It may also be related to the covid-19 pandemic, as many kids switched to virtual schooling during lockdowns, which could have made inattention or hyperactivity issues more apparent to parents, says Krakower.

The researchers also found that about 30 per cent of children with ADHD didn’t receive treatment for the condition in 2022. The same was true for only 23 per cent of kids with the condition in 2016.

This difference may reflect the impact of covid-19 lockdowns, since behavioural treatments are commonly offered through school, says Danielson. It could also be a result of ongoing shortages of ADHD medications, she says.

“You probably had a surge of awareness and not enough treatment to keep up with the awareness,” says Krakower.

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