Updated on September 22, 2022
HealthDay operates under the strictest editorial standards. Our syndicated news content is completely independent of any financial interests, is based solely on industry-respected sources and the latest scientific research, and is carefully fact-checked by a team of industry experts to ensure accuracy.
- All articles are edited and checked for factual accuracy by our Editorial Team prior to being published.
- Unless otherwise noted, all articles focusing on new research are based on studies published in peer-reviewed journals or issued from independent and respected medical associations, academic groups and governmental organizations.
- Each article includes a link or reference to the original source.
- Any known potential conflicts of interest associated with a study or source are made clear to the reader.
Please see our Editorial and Fact-Checking Policy for more detail.Editorial and Fact-Checking Policy
HealthDay Editorial Commitment
HeathDay is committed to maintaining the highest possible levels of impartial editorial standards in the content that we present on our website. All of our articles are chosen independent of any financial interests. Editors and writers make all efforts to clarify any financial ties behind the studies on which we report.
MONDAY, March 5, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A new Canadian study provides more evidence that too many young kids may be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, simply because they're younger than their peers in the same classrooms.
Researchers found that nearly 7 percent of boys aged 6 to 12 were diagnosed with ADHD overall, but the percentage ranged from 5.7 percent for those who were the oldest in their grade levels to 7.4 percent for the youngest. There was a similar gap for girls, although they're much less likely to be diagnosed.
The findings, which are similar to those from U.S. studies, don't prove definitively that any kids are being wrongly diagnosed with ADHD or being diagnosed purely because they're younger than their peers.
Still, "it's good for parents to know about this," said study author Richard Morrow, a health research analyst at the University of British Columbia. "In general, the younger you are within your grade, the more likely you are to receive this diagnosis and get treatment."
ADHD is a controversial developmental disorder, and there's been debate about whether it is overdiagnosed. The researchers launched the study to determine whether a student's age in relation to his or her peers may have something to do with the likelihood of diagnosis.
The study authors examined the records of over 930,000 kids in British Columbia who were between the ages of 6 and 12, during the time period from 1997 to 2008. They focused on differences between kids born in January (who'd typically be the oldest in their classes) and December (who'd typically be the youngest due to cut-off dates for school enrollment).
The level of ADHD diagnosis was lowest for kids born early in the year -- the oldest ones in their classes -- and highest for those born later in the year. Kids born in January and December had the lowest and highest rates, respectively: 5.7 percent of boys and 1.6 percent of girls for those born in January, and 7.4 percent of boys and 2.7 percent of girls among those born in December.
Boys born in December were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed and 41 percent more likely to be treated with ADHD medications than boys born in January were, while the youngest girls were 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed and 77 percent more likely to be treated with medications than the oldest girls were, the study found.
"There is no reason for them to have this kind of difference in their diagnosis," Morrow said. "The way we would interpret that is that there are differences in maturity that are coming into play."
In other words, physicians and teachers may think kids have ADHD when they're actually just younger and less mature than their peers.
Richard Milich, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky who studies ADHD, said the findings make sense considering that the disorder is difficult to diagnose, especially at younger ages.
When ADHD becomes an issue, Milich said, parents should be aware of this kind of research and bring it up with their pediatrician or whomever else is appropriate. However, "I hope it doesn't get to the point that people say it's not a valid disorder," he said.
Kids with ADHD "do poorer in school, they're more likely to be left behind and more likely to drop out of school early. Across the board, they are impaired," Milich said. "Whether you want to call it a disorder or not, we know that's what they're at risk for."
The study appears in the March 5 issue of the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
For more about ADHD, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
This story may be outdated. We suggest some alternatives.
The content contained in this article is over two years old. As such our recommendation is that you reference the articles below for the latest updates on this topic. This article has been left on our site as a matter of historic record. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.