ADHD in the Pediatric Population


Theresa R. Cerulli, MD, provides an overview of the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (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. That was from the National Survey of Children’s Health, the NSCH study. It was a survey that the CDC conducted with parents and reviewing health care claims for diagnostic measures. Again, 2016 data, 6.1 million children, which translates to 9.4% of kids; these are US data.

When I said the prevalence has changed, whether it really has changed, or whether we are we getting better at diagnostic evaluations, is unclear. But let me give you the 2003 data. Back in 2003, with the same type of approach, a survey of parents and health care reviews showed that at that point, there were 4.4 million children compared to what I said in 2016, 6.1 million children diagnosed. We’re not saying symptomatic or suspected, the numbers I’m giving you are diagnosed children in the United States, ages 2 to 17. Let me clarify further; those ages 2 to 17 were for 2016. Perhaps one of the reasons that prevalence looks like it’s gone up is that the age criteria have shifted in the way the data are collected. Back in 2003, we wouldn’t have been capturing those preschool-aged children. They weren’t 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 capturing, and the way we capture the data is a bit different. What does that all translate to? ADHD is the most common neurobiological condition in children in the United States. The numbers, by the way, look similar across the board in other countries.

Transcript edited for clarity.

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