ADHD in the Pediatric Population

Theresa R. Cerulli, MD: For ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] in the pediatric population, the prevalence has changed over the years. As of 2016, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] studies have shown that for children ages 2 to 17, scientists found that 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. This was shown by the National Survey of Children’s Health, the NSCH study. It was a study that the CDC conducted with parents and assessed health claims for diagnostic measures. Again, data from 2016, 6.1 million children, which translates to 9.4% of children; this is US data.

When I said that prevalence has changed, it’s unclear if it’s really changed, or if we’re getting better at diagnostic evaluations. But let me give you the 2003 data. In 2003, taking the same kind of approach, a survey of parents and health care assessments showed there were 4.4 million children at the time, compared to what I said in 2016, 6.1 million children diagnosed. We’re not saying symptomatic or suspicious, the numbers I’m giving you are diagnosed children in the United States, ages 2 to 17. Let me clarify further; which were ages 2 to 17 for 2016. One of the reasons the prevalence seems to have increased is that the age criteria have shifted in the way the data is collected. In 2003, we wouldn’t have recorded those preschool-aged kids. They were not in the diagnostic criteria.

As our understanding of the condition has evolved, I’m not going to say the prevalence rates have gone up, so to speak, but the numbers have gone up because we’re better at recording, and the way we record the data is a little different. What does all this translate to? ADHD is the most common neurobiological disorder in children in the United States. Incidentally, the figures in other countries are similar across the board.

Transcription edited for clarity.

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