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Health plan’s records show increase in ADHD rates


A study of medical records at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan indicates the rate of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis increased from 2001 to 2010.

ADHD is among the most common chronic childhood psychiatric disorders, affecting an estimated 4% to 12% of all school-aged children and persisting into adolescence and adulthood in about 66% to 85% of affected children. The origin of ADHD is not fully understood, but some emerging evidence suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play important roles, according to background information for the study, which is scheduled for publication in JAMA Pediatrics (formerly the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine).

Darios Getahun, MD, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues used patient medical records to examine trends in the diagnosis of ADHD in all children who received care at Kaiser Permanente Southern California from January 2001 through December 2010. Of the 842,830 children cared for during that time, 39,200 (4.9%) had a diagnosis of ADHD.

The rates of ADHD diagnosis were 2.5% in 2001 and 3.1% in 2010, a relative increase of 24%. From 2001 to 2010, the rate increased among whites (4.7% to 5.6%), blacks (2.6% to 4.1%) and Hispanics (1.7% to 2.5%). Rates for Asian/Pacific Islanders remained unchanged over time, according to the study data.

Boys were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, but the study data suggest the gender gap for black children may be closing over time. Children who live in high-income households ($70,000 or more) also were at an increased risk of diagnosis, according to the results.

“We observed disproportionately high ADHD diagnosis rates among white children and notable increases among black girls,” the authors wrote.

The study abstract is available at


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