Prevalence of ADHD Diagnoses Up Significantly

September 11, 2018

The prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in the United States increased significantly from 1997 to 2016, reports a new study published online in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers used data from the population-based, cross-sectional National Health Interview Survey for 186,457 US children to investigate the estimated prevalence of ADHD over the 20-year period. In-person household interviewers asked parents or guardians whether children had received an ADHD diagnosis by a physician or heath care professional, among other questions.

In 1997-1998, the estimated prevalence of ADHD diagnoses among US children and adolescents was 6.1%, researchers reported. By 2015-2016, it had grown to 10.2%.

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While the estimated prevalence differed among subgroups by age, sex, race/ethnicity, family income, and geographic regions, researchers reported significant increases in all subgroups. For example, diagnosed ADHD among boys grew from 9% to 14% over the study period. In girls, the prevalence doubled from 3.1% to 6.3%.

Researchers called for more investigation into causes behind the increases. Potential factors that may play a role include increased physician awareness of ADHD, changes in diagnostic criteria, and improved access to health care, they noted.

“This continued upward trend in diagnosed ADHD among children and adolescents points to the need to better understand potentially modifiable environmental risk factors,” they wrote, “as well as provide adequate resources for the diagnosis and treatment of affected individuals in the future.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Xu G, Strathearn L, Liu B, Yang B, Bao W. Twenty-year trends in diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among US children and adolescents, 1997-2016. JAMA Network Open. 2018 August 31.

Trends over 20 years in ADHD diagnoses among US children, adolescents [press release]. London, England: JAMA Network Open; August 31, 2018.