ADHD Diagnoses Surge Among U.S. Children, CDC Study Finds

Diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in U.S. children have surged in recent years, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study analyzed data from over 45,000 parent responses to the 2022 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). It found that in 2022, 7 million children aged 3 to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD, an increase of 1 million from 2016. ABC News Reported this, Means approximately 1 in 9 U.S. children have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. Additionally, 10.5% of children, or 6.5 million, were found to have current ADHD in 2022.

Among children with current ADHD, the study found that 58.1% had moderate or severe ADHD and 77.9% had at least one co-occurring disorder. These co-occurring disorders included behavioral issues such as anxiety or depression and developmental problems such as learning disabilities or speech delays.

ADHD is characterized by attention difficulties, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD include frequent daydreaming, losing or forgetting things, excessive talking, squirming or fidgeting, difficulty getting along with others, trouble taking turns, and making careless mistakes. told by NPR

Diagnosing ADHD involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare provider, which may include a psychologist, psychiatrist, or pediatrician. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, so parents concerned about their child’s symptoms should consult a healthcare provider.

Despite recommendations for behavior therapy, either alone or in combination with medications, only about half of children with current ADHD had used medication (53.6%), and 44.4% had received behavioral therapy in the past year, according to parent responses. Nearly one-third of children (30.1%) did not receive any ADHD-specific treatment. Older children (ages 12-17) were more likely than younger children (ages 6-11) to go untreated, and children in non-English speaking households were also less likely to receive treatment.

The lack of access to treatment may be due in part to medication shortages. ADHD medications have faced national shortages for several years, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Notably, the ADHD prescription drug Adderall has been in short supply since late 2022, initially due to manufacturing delays and now driven by increased demand, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The authors of the study suggest several reasons for the increase in ADHD diagnoses. Increased public awareness has likely led to more children being correctly diagnosed. Additionally, reduced stigma around ADHD treatment may encourage more families to seek help. The COVID-19 pandemic may also have exacerbated ADHD symptoms due to the associated mental health challenges.

Children with ADHD are more likely to experience poor health outcomes as adults, including obesity, chronic illnesses, and accidental injuries. The study’s authors emphasize that their findings can help clinicians identify and treat ADHD more effectively and aid policymakers, government agencies, healthcare systems, and public health practitioners in planning and ensuring access to care and services for children with ADHD.