A recent study suggests that the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among adults has increased steadily over the years. The study found that within the Kaiser Permanente health system, there were increased rates of adults diagnosed with ADHD regardless of whether they were diagnosed as children or as adults. Over the ten-year period between 2007 and 2016, there was a 43% increase in the number of adults diagnosed with ADHD.
The study looked at the electronic health records of 5.2 million adults who received healthcare through Kaiser Permanente in Northern California between 2007 and 2016. Researchers analyzed the data for the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses and also looked for any racial differences. The study found an increase in ADHD diagnoses across all races. White adults consistently had the highest prevalence.
The study had some limitations. It did not analyze what happened after an adult was diagnosed with ADHD. There was no information about what treatment approaches, if any, were used to treat the diagnosis. In addition, the study did not look at patients outside the Kaiser Permanente system, which could include low-income patients.
Reasons for the Increase
The main reason posited for the increase in diagnoses is the fact that healthcare providers are more open to looking at ADHD as not just a disorder that affects children. The recognition of ADHD in adults is increasing, which is leading to more diagnoses. The hope is that ADHD is more frequently recognized in treated in adults. The increase in diagnoses is also the result of an increase in individuals seeking psychiatric care in general. This demonstrates a positive trend in reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues, including ADHD.
While ADHD is now recognized as one of the most common disorders in childhood, it was not recognized as a diagnosis for adults until the last fifteen years. Researchers hope that this study will lead to further research throughout the United States. The prevalence of ADHD in the adults in the study is lower than the national average.
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