ADHD Raises Kids' Health Costs Even Before Diagnosis

Study also finds race-based differences in ADHD spending

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 4, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- In the two years before and after they're diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), children with the condition typically use more health-care services than other children, U.S. research shows.

It also found that white children with ADHD accumulate more expenses than other children with the disorder.

Researchers in California analyzed health-care costs for more than 3,100 children, aged 2 to 10, who were diagnosed with ADHD between 1996 and 2004. They then compared those expenditures to health-care costs for more than 15,000 children without ADHD.

Compared to children without ADHD, those with the condition had average health care costs that were $488 higher in the second year before their diagnosis, $678 higher in the year before diagnosis, $1,328 higher in the year following diagnosis, and $1,040 higher in the second year after diagnosis.

Compared with white children with ADHD, Asian, black and Hispanic children showed lower annual costs for ADHD medications. Overall spending on ADHD services for Asian children was 30 percent lower ($221) than for white children, the study found.

The study was published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Parents commonly state that behavioral problems predate their child's ADHD diagnosis, often by several years, and these problems may affect their use of health services," said a team led by G. Thomas Ray of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland.

"In our study sample, costs were significantly higher in the two years before the index date among children subsequently diagnosed with ADHD, and costs remained higher for at least two years following the initial ADHD diagnosis," the researchers noted. "Much of the excess cost was due to increased pediatric and psychiatric services, which were higher in the first year after diagnosis than in the second year."

Cultural acceptance of ADHD diagnosis and treatment could explain ethnic differences in costs and use of ADHD medications, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about ADHD.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Oct. 2, 2006

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