How Common is ADHD?

Some studies estimate that 1.7 percent of children have ADHD; others claim the number is closer to 26 percent, depending upon where, when and how the studies were conducted.

The Journal of the American Medical Association states that ADHD “… is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children.” The British Medical Journal estimates that some 7 percent of school-aged children have ADHD — and that boys are affected three times as often as girls. A 1995 Virginia study showed that 8 to 10 percent of young schoolchildren were taking medication for ADHD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2002, 7 percent of children in the U.S. ages 6 to 11 had ADHD. They also reported that half of children in whom a diagnosis of ADHD was made also have a learning disability. They calculated that at least one million children have a learning disability without ADHD. The total number of children with at least one of these disorders was 2.6 million.

Again, boys were three times as likely as girls to have a diagnosis of ADHD alone, and twice as likely to have ADHD with a learning disability. Rates of diagnosis of ADHD are twice as high in Caucasian children as in Latinos and African Americans. Interestingly, children with a diagnosis of a learning disability alone were more likely to live in a low-income or single-mother household. Children from families with health insurance were more likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD without a learning disability.

It may be that Caucasian children, especially boys, are over diagnosed. Another example is found in a study of fifth graders. Eighteen to 20 percent of Caucasian boys were being treated for ADHD with medication. African American children with ADHD are less than half as likely to receive treatment.

Whether or not you believe ADHD is real, it is not at all uncommon. Those looking for help in dealing with ADHD are not alone. Many parents are trying to discover the attention deficit dividends of their child. There is hope. To unlock the potential in your child will require some work on your part, but it will be well worth it.

Undoubtedly, ADHD treatment is a controversial topic — but in my opinion it should not be. In fact, more and more the medical studies are confirming that treatments work and they help — and they should not be kept from children who need them.

I would be the first to admit that ADHD is occasionally over diagnosed. Obviously, not everybody who is called ADHD really is. But overall, it appears that physicians and mental-health professionals are doing a fair job.

In fact, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes: “Although some children are being diagnosed as having ADHD with insufficient evaluation and in some cases stimulant medication is prescribed when treatment alternatives exist, there is little evidence of widespread over diagnosis or misdiagnosis of ADHD or of widespread over-prescription of methylphenidate (Ritalin and others) by physicians.”

Used with permission from Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster by Dennis Swanberg, Diane Passno and Walter L. Larimore, M.D. A Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.