Age difference could affect ADHD diagnosis and treatment: Study

An increasing number of Americans are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No single reason can be attributed to it, though the roots of the disorder can be traced to either genetic or environmental factors or a combination of both. Some mental disorders exhibit gender bias and ADHD is one of them with more boys than girls being diagnosed with ADHD.

According to reports, nearly 11 percent American children aged 4-17 years were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011-12. The increase in the number of children and adolescents suffering from inattention and behavioral difficulties, characteristic of this disorder, manifests its commonality and affects the way physicians view its symptoms.

Even slight age difference can affect intervention

A recent study, titled “Influence of Relative Age on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Taiwanese Children,” tried to examine how age of a patient affects the diagnosis of ADHD and the kind of treatment meted out in any Asian country. The scientists investigated details of 378,881 respondents aged between four and 17 years.

The participants were selected randomly to find out the rates at which they were being detected with ADHD or were recommended medication. The study, published online in the Journal of Pediatrics in March 2016, used data collected and collated from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database.

Assessment of the details suggested that even a slight age difference could change the way ADHD is diagnosed and treated. During the study, it was observed that children and teenagers born in August end up being the youngest in their grades because of August 31 being the cut-off birth date for admission in schools.

The scientists found that those born in August were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed treatment as compared to those born in September. Based on the observations of the study that lasted from September 1997 to August 2011, it was found that the youngest respondents were in greater likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD and were prescribed medications for the same when contrasted with details obtained from their older counterparts.

The findings were based on an analysis of ADHD students who were prescribed methylphenidate or atomoxetine on a monthly basis. The findings were observed after making the necessary adjustments for demographic variables, including sex, level of urbanization, and income-related insured amount.

Also, a detailed assessment revealed that the perceived risk associated with ADHD diagnosis based on birth month was applicable in cases of students studying in preschool or elementary stages. The same influence was not applicable for teenagers, thus, indicating that the relative age influence may decrease with increasing maturity in children.

Study warns about potential over diagnosis of ADHD

The observations are in sync with previous researches conducted in America, Sweden and Spain that pinpointed the impact of relative age on diagnosis of the disorder and its treatment. Stressing on the findings, the authors of the latest study said, “Relative age, as an indicator of neurocognitive maturity, is crucial in the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication among children and adolescents.”

They said that the observations raised a warning about the potential over diagnosis and over prescription of medications for ADHD. The findings also indicated the need for pediatricians to take into consideration the age of their wards before studying the symptoms of ADHD and advising the necessary therapeutic interventions.

Recovery is possible

ADHD can result in embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness, disappointment and lack of confidence among the sufferers. Timely detection of ADHD is important as it helps decode the complications and problems and avoid falling into the trap of guilt and shame.

If you or a loved one is suffering from ADHD or any other mental disorder, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to find the right line of treatment for the mental health illness. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to get in touch with a mental health specialist and start the journey to recovery today.