CDC Report Finds ADHD Diagnosis, Treatment in Children and Adolescents Continue to Rise

December 3, 2013

ADHD is on the rise according to a new report from the CDC, and most youngsters with the diagnosis are receiving treatment for the disorder. But the report raises a number of clinical implications . . .

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is on the rise in children and adolescents, according to a new report from the CDC. Susanna N. Visser, from the division of Human Development and Disability at the CDC, and colleagues found that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD increased 42% from 2003 to 2011.1,2 The researchers noted an average annual increase of about 5% per year, with 7.8%, 9.5%,  and 11.0% lifetime diagnosis in 2003, 2007, and 2011, respectively.

In addition to noting this rising trend, the researchers painted a picture of current ADHD prevalence in the US. According to their study, more than 1 in 10 school-aged children had received a diagnosis by physician by 2011. Visser's group also found that 6.4 million children had ever received an ADHD diagnosis (1 in 5 high school boys and 1 in 11 high school girls had received this diagnosis). Average age at diagnosis was 7 years old.

Treatment patterns seem to follow diagnosis patterns: that is, most children and adolescents are receiving treatment for the disorder. The researchers found that the prevalence of children and adolescents who were receiving medication increased 28% from 2007 to 2011. Yet treatment gaps still exist. Visser and colleagues found as many as 17.5% of children with the diagnosis were not receiving medication or mental health counseling. More than one-third of those who were not receiving medication also had moderate to severe ADHD.

The report raises a number of clinical implications, as the authors note in their discussion. Particularly, Visser's group points to the need for transitional services for high school students, especially considering the risk of abuse and misuse in this patient population. Similarly, since the most severe cases of ADHD are often diagnosed in children younger than age 5, early interventions targeted at this population may be warranted.

References:

1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Key findings: Trends in the parent-report of health care provider-diagnosis and medication treatment for ADHD: United States, 2003-2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/features/key-findings-adhd72013.html. Accessed November 27, 2013.

2. Visser SN, Danielson ML,  Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Kogan MD, Ghandour RM, Perou R, Blumberg SJ. Trends in the parent-report of health care provider-diagnosed and medicated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: United States, 2003 – 2011. 2013; J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Available at: http://jaacap.org/webfiles/images/journals/jaac/visser.pdf. Accessed November 27, 2013.