11% of Youth Have Received ADHD Diagnosis

Study author says better awareness, more treatment opportunities are behind the increase
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2024 8:00 AM CDT
11% of Youth Have Received ADHD Diagnosis
Adderall XR capsules are displayed on Feb. 24, 2023.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

The latest data shows 11% of US children ages 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD—an "expanding public health concern," according to the CDC. Some 7.1 million children had received a diagnosis as of 2022, up from about 6 million in 2016, with 6.5 million cases considered current, according to data from the 2022 National Survey of Children's Health, presented Wednesday in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. For lead study author Melissa Danielson, a CDC statistician, the findings aren't a surprise. Many children experienced stress, anxiety, and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in assessments and diagnoses for various conditions, including ADHD.

The neurodevelopmental disorder has received increased recognition in recent years. With that have come more diagnoses among girls. Boys have long been diagnosed at 2.5 times the rate of girls because boys tend to showcase "hyperactive or impulsive ADHD," Danielson tells NPR. But there's now more awareness that girls with ADHD may "be daydreaming or have a lack of focus or be hyperfocused" on something they shouldn't be, she says. At the same time, "there are more opportunities for these kids to be helped," creating "more incentive to get that kind of diagnosis," Danielson tells NBC News. Yet what experts find alarming is an apparent lack of treatment.

Only half of children with current ADHD were taking medication in 2022, and just 44% had received behavioral treatment in the past year, according to the study. The reasons for this are unclear, though it may be linked to a shortage of the ADHD drug Adderall, first reported by the FDA in October 2022. Some patients are still struggling to fill their prescriptions, NBC reports. Separately, some parents may be avoiding ADHD drugs over concerns that they're addictive. But there's no evidence of an increased risk of drug abuse, an expert tells NPR. He adds treatment is important not least because untreated ADHD can increase a child's risk of serious health concerns, like diabetes and heart disease, down the line. (More ADHD stories.)

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