10 Percent Of American Kids Are Diagnosed With ADHD. Researchers Say This May Be A Good Thing

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

More than 10 percent of American children had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in 2015 and 2016, which is nearly double the amount of diagnoses between 1997 and 1998.

Some researchers say it is not all bad news that the percentage of diagnoses has grown from approximately 6 percent in the late 1990s, according to a survey released Friday of approximately 35,000 households cited by JAMA Pediatrics. That is because premature babies are more likely to develop ADHD and an increase in ADHD diagnoses could go hand-in-hand with an increase in premature baby survival, according to Kaiser Health News.

Premature babies in developed countries had a significantly higher likelihood of survival and lower likelihood of developing disabilities in 2017 compared to the 1990s, reported The Guardian. The survival rate of infants born between 22 and 31 weeks went up 6 percent in developed nations between 1997 and 2017 due to better medical technology, according to World Health Organization cited by The Guardian.

Researchers indicated other possible reasons for the larger number of ADHD diagnoses, including overdiagnosis and increased access to health care under the Affordable Care Act for minorities, according to KHN.

The number of black children diagnosed with ADHD basically tripled from 4.7 percent to 12.8 percent between the late 1990s and 2016, according to KHN. The number of Hispanic children diagnosed with ADHD nearly doubled from 3.6 percent to 6.1 percent in the same time period.

Regarding overdiagnosis, experts are split on whether the increase is due to medical professionals’ growing awareness of ADHD and other mental health issues or a misunderstanding of child behavior.

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, author of “The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance,” pointed out that ADHD has no biological markers.

“It’s probably not a true epidemic of ADHD,” Hinshaw told KHN. “It might be an epidemic of diagnosing it.” (RELATED: People Are Burning Their Insides With This Liquid Nitrogen-Infused Cereal Snack The FDA Hates)

ADHD is “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

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