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1 in 9 kids in U.S. has received an ADHD diagnosis, according to new study

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

About 1 in 9 children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. That is according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NPR's Maria Godoy has more.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Researchers found that in 2022, 7.1 million kids and adolescents in the U.S. had received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives. That's 1 million more children than in 2016. Study author Melissa Danielson is with the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. She says the jump in diagnoses isn't surprising because the data were gathered during the pandemic, which saw a rise in kids dealing with other mental health issues.

MELISSA DANIELSON: They might have been the result of a child being assessed for a different diagnosis - something like anxiety or depression - and their clinician identifying that the child also had ADHD.

GODOY: In the past, boys have been diagnosed with ADHD at about 2 1/2 times the rate of girls. But the new report found that gender gap is narrowing. Danielson says that likely reflects a greater awareness of the different ways ADHD can manifest in children.

DANIELSON: ADHD previously - like, decades ago - had been thought of as a disorder of kind of hyperactive younger boys.

GODOY: But doctors now know that in girls, ADHD tends to show up more as inattention.

DANIELSON: They'll be daydreaming or have a lack of focus or be hyper-focused on a particular task that maybe is not the task that they need to be focused on.

GODOY: The report found that just over half of kids with ADHD were being treated with medication. That's down from 2016. Dr. Max Wiznitzer is a professor of pediatric neurology at Case Western Reserve University. He points to something else concerning.

MAX WIZNITZER: Worse than that, less than half are getting behavioral therapies.

GODOY: Wiznitzer says that treatment for ADHD involves a two-pronged approach. Medication can help control symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention, but therapy is also needed to teach kids and their parents strategies that can help them do better at school and at home. Researchers say that's why increased awareness and diagnosis of ADHD is so important - so kids can get the help they need to manage the condition. The new report appears in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Maria Godoy, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIALL HORAN SONG, "THIS TOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Maria Godoy
Maria Godoy is a senior science and health editor and correspondent with NPR News. Her reporting can be heard across NPR's news shows and podcasts. She is also one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.