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A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics outlines the latest survey data around attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in the United States (Reuben 2024). The data found that 11.3% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 had received a diagnosis of ADHD. In boys, the percentage was higher, at 14.5%, while 8% of girls had been given the diagnosis.

Of interest, the results found racial and economic disparities. Diagnoses in white children were 13.4%, while black and Hispanic children were 10.8% and 8.9% respectively. In families below the poverty level, diagnoses reached 14.8%, while families with incomes two times or more above the poverty level were 10.1%.

Previous surveys from 2003 and 2007 show the rising rates of ADHD diagnoses over time. In 2003, 7.8% of children were found to have an ADHD diagnosis. The total percentage rose in 2007 when 9.5% of U.S. children were found to have been diagnosed.

ADHD Rates in Other Countries

Of interest, other countries have assessed national rates of ADHD and have found significantly lower numbers. In 2023, a review article on rates of ADHD in French children found that just 3.7% had ADHD (Caci 2023). Estimates from China suggest that 6.5% of children have the condition (Liu 2018). Worldwide, estimates show a rate of just 5.41%, with the United States having the largest increase in cases anywhere in the world in the last few decades (Cortese 2023).

So why are rates going up so dramatically in the United States? Is it possible that we need a new approach to ADHD prevention and treatment?

ADHD Causes

The factors that contribute to ADHD are well recognized as being both genetic and environmental (Faraone 2021). Of these influences, the strongest associations are with exposure to lead, second hand tobacco smoke, artificial food dyes, acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy, phthalates (plastics), organophosphate pesticides and air pollution.

Other factors with known associations include nutrient deficiencies. Low ferritin levels, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc have all been found or suggested to be lower in ADHD children (Tseng 2018, Chang 2018, Kotsi 2019, Effatpanah 2019, Ghoreishy 2021). As genetic causes are stable or unchanging over time, the environmental factors likely have a role in increasing ADHD rates. By evaluating for and addressing these risk factors, it’s likely we can start to turn the tide of rising ADHD diagnoses in the United States and beyond.

Psychiatry Redefined

Addressing these underlying causes is exactly the Functional Psychiatric treatment approach that we teach here at Psychiatry Redefined. For years we have been showing what’s possible, training health-care providers in the functional and integrative management of mental health conditions, including ADHD. By using a more comprehensive, whole-person approach, symptom resolution is more often attainable than with medications alone. If you’re interested in learning more, consider a training fellowship with Psychiatry Redefined to learn the latest cutting-edge approaches to mental health treatment.

Want to learn new functional approaches to help your patients with ADHD?

Enroll now in our Fellowship for mental health providers! Book a private call with Dr. Greenblatt to explore the program.

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References

Caci H. Prevalence rate of ADHD in France: Review of the literature and results from ChiP-ARD study. Encephale. 2023;49(6):624-631. doi:10.1016/j.encep.2023.05.006

Chang JP, Su KP, Mondelli V, Pariante CM. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials and Biological Studies. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(3):534-545. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.160

Cortese S, Song M, Farhat LC, et al. Incidence, prevalence, and global burden of ADHD from 1990 to 2019 across 204 countries: data, with critical re-analysis, from the Global Burden of Disease study. Mol Psychiatry. 2023;28(11):4823-4830. doi:10.1038/s41380-023-02228-3

Effatpanah M, Rezaei M, Effatpanah H, et al. Magnesium status and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2019;274:228-234. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2019.02.043

Faraone SV, Banaschewski T, Coghill D, et al. The World Federation of ADHD International Consensus Statement: 208 Evidence-based conclusions about the disorder. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021;128:789-818. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.01.022

Ghoreishy SM, Ebrahimi Mousavi S, Asoudeh F, Mohammadi H. Zinc status in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):14612. Published 2021 Jul 16. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-94124-5

Kotsi E, Kotsi E, Perrea DN. Vitamin D levels in children and adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a meta-analysis. Atten Defic Hyperact Disord. 2019;11(3):221-232. doi:10.1007/s12402-018-0276-7

Liu A, Xu Y, Yan Q, Tong L. The Prevalence of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder among Chinese Children and Adolescents. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):11169. Published 2018 Aug 16. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-29488-2

Reuben C, Elgaddal N. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children ages 5–17 years: United States, 2020–2022. NCHS Data Brief, no 499. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2024. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15620/cdc/148043

Tseng PT, Cheng YS, Yen CF, et al. Peripheral iron levels in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):788. Published 2018 Jan 15. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-19096-x