A growing number of older US children are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, while diagnoses among younger children have held steady, US government researchers said.
However, Dr Murray Rushmere, a medical doctor and homeopath from Cape Town, feels that the ADHD diagnosis is often made hastily, mostly because the symptoms are uncomfortable in a society which prefers uniformity. For example, if a child is disruptive and impulsive in the classroom, it could make him unpopular among teachers and fellow learners. It can also have a negative impact on the child's academic performance. This would be disturbing to both the child and to his or her parents.
‘In this context, it's easy to see why there's such an urgency to treat the perceived problem as a condition,’ Rushmere says. ‘We want everyone to do well in the conventional way.’
Diagnosis increased 4% annually
The report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found ADHD diagnoses among children aged 12 to 17 increased by an average of 4 percent a year from 1997 to 2006. The researchers found no significant change in the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 diagnosed with ADHD over the same period.
The researchers used statistics from a national health survey that included data on 23 000 children aged 6 to 17 gathered in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Overall, they found that nearly 5 percent of children aged 6 to 17 had ADHD, a condition that often becomes apparent in preschool and early school years. Children with ADHD have a tougher time controlling their behaviour and paying attention.
4.5 million children suffer from ADHD
The researchers estimated that as of 2006, a total of 4.5 million school-aged children - those aged 5 to 17 - had been diagnosed with ADHD.
Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to have ADHD, confirming similar findings from other studies.
The study also found that Hispanic children were less likely than non-Hispanic black or white children to have ADHD.
Children with ADHD were more likely than others to have contact with a mental health professional, to use prescription drugs and have frequent health-care visits.
The researchers did not say why older children were being diagnosed at a higher rate than younger children, but suggested it may be that older children had more chances of being evaluated and diagnosed than younger children.
ADHD is marked by restlessness, impulsiveness, inattention and distractibility that can interfere with a child's ability to pay attention in school and maintain social relationships.
The typical treatment for ADHD is with a drug like Ritalin, or methylphenidate, a stimulant intended to lower impulsiveness and hyperactivity and boost attention. - (Reuters Health)