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Attention deficit, increasing cases

In 9 years, ADHD diagnoses have grown by 24 percent; today in the United States the diagnosis affects 5 out of 100 children

Is there an epidemic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children? Peeking into some classroom of primary school the doubt comes: small agitated people, who find it difficult to sit at the desk and follow with difficulty the lessons there are almost everywhere. But theirs is a “disturbance” or the usual liveliness due to age? Reading a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics, one is tempted to believe that ADHD is really spreading among the under 18: the authors have in fact shown that in the last 9 years the rate of new diagnoses has grown by 24 percent.

STUDY – The research examined 850 thousand children between 5 and 11 years of age who between 2001 and 2010 turned to the Kaiser Permanente Center in Southern California for any reason; the researchers, analyzing all the clinical data, verified that 5 percent of all children received a diagnosis of ADHD but above all that the incidence of new diagnoses has been growing over the years, recording a plus 24 percent in 2010 compared to 2001 (with a share of cases three times higher among males than females). An interesting aspect is given by the different distribution of cases in the various ethnic groups: white children are the most affected (5.6 percent in 2010, with an increase of 30 percent compared to nine years earlier), followed by blacks (4.1 percent, up 70 percent), Hispanics (2.5 percent) and Asians (1.2 percent). It cannot be ruled out with certainty that there is no genetic predisposition, but the wide and detailed case studies suggest Darios Getahun, the coordinator of the study, for another analysis of the results: «Our investigation, which offers particularly solid and repeatable data in other populations precisely because of the number and ethnic and social diversity of the sample, suggests that cultural factors may affect the diagnosis of ADHD. Cases are more frequent in wealthier families, for example: if the parents’ salary exceeds the threshold of 30 thousand dollars per year (about 23 thousand euros, ed.), The probability of a diagnosis of ADHD in the child increases by 20 percent “.

CULTURAL FACTORS – Excluding that money makes you sick, a “cultural prejudice” can then explain the increase in ADHD diagnoses: the higher the socio-economic and cultural level of the family, in other words, the more the mothers and fathers are attentive to the behavior of children and tend to seek help from specialists when in doubt. With the result of “finding” more cases than it is possible to do in disadvantaged contexts. “It, therefore, seems likely that the greater spread of the disorder is at least partly attributable to greater awareness on the part of parents and also of pediatricians, who in case of suspicions immediately send the child to a more thorough examination – adds Getahun -. We must not forget, in fact, that ADHD increases the probability of learning disabilities, early school leaving, difficulties in relations with family and friends ». Well, recognize it, therefore, hoping that they will not be labeled as problematic children who are simply a little more lively than normal. Also because it does not seem that the therapies are really very effective, at least according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: 90 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD in preschool-age continue to have symptoms even six years later and often despite the possible pharmacological treatments, according to data collected on about 200 children. “The disorder is always diagnosed earlier,” said Baltimore Johns Hopkins Children Center psychiatrist Mark Riddle, who coordinated the research. Moreover, in very young children it is often a problem that tends to persist and requires particular approaches, probably different from those available today: with current therapies we have in fact verified that all the symptoms remain substantially the same over the years, from the lack of attention to impulsiveness, up to hyperactivity. “

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