New federal data reveals that there are more children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in recent years compared to 20 years ago.

Although the reasons for the increase is unknown, it is possible that increased awareness and less stigma contributed to the increase in diagnoses.

Federal Data On ADHD

Researchers of a new study on ADHD prevalence among U.S. children analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). In it, parents of children between 4 and 17 years old answered questions about their children’s health, and the NHIS was able to collect ADHD data on over 185,000 children over the course of 20 years.

What researchers of the new study found was that 10.2 percent of U.S. children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2015-2016 compared to 1997-1998 when 6 percent of children were diagnosed. Researchers observed the increase in ADHD diagnoses across demographics, but also observed significant discrepancies in the new data.

Increased Awareness Or Environmental Factors?

For instance, in 2015-2016, there were more ADHD diagnoses among boys at 14 percent compared to the 6.3 percent diagnoses among girls, and there were also more diagnoses among older children between 12 and 17 years old at 13.5 percent compared to the younger children between 4 and 11 years old at 7.7 percent. There were also more ADHD diagnoses among black children, followed by white children, then by Hispanic children at 12.8, 12, and 6.1 percent respectively.

Researchers surmise that it is possible that the changing diagnostic criteria and increased awareness may have contributed to the increase in diagnoses, as well as better health care access and less stigma regarding mental health, particularly among minorities.

However, other recent studies have shown the possibility that environmental factors such as the increase in the use of digital media, placenta and complications during pregnancy, and even the effects of an already obsolete pregnancy drug may have contributed to the increase in diagnoses. According to researchers, the results suggest a greater need to understand the causes of the increase in ADHD diagnoses.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.


ADHD is a childhood-onset brain disorder characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Children with ADHD often have difficulties in sustaining attention in play, conversations, and tasks, in following instructions and organizing things, and may find it difficult to concentrate as they tend to be easily distracted even by small stimuli or distractions.

They may also be hyperactive and appear “on the go” as they tend to talk nonstop, dash around even in inappropriate situations, have troubles in waiting for their turn, and fidget and squirm in their seats if they need to stay still.

There is no cure for ADHD, but therapies, medications, and education and training may help reduce symptoms and help both the person with ADHD and their families to cope with the disorder.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.