Ethnic discrimination pushes doctors to overlook symptoms of ADHD diagnosis: Study

Every nation strives to attain equality among its people, but not all have been able to curb the discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, language, religion and economy. No matter much how one stays in denial, the impact of racism is palpable with incidents of discrimination being reported regularly across the world, including the United States.

Racism and perceptions against any particular community can affect anyone. However, the worst hit are children who get poorly diagnosed regarding their mental health disorders when compared with others. Differences in diagnosis and medication use have been traced to long-standing prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities. Treatment of mental illnesses becomes difficult if they are not detected in the first place.

A group of scientists found that though the signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were manifested more by an increased number of black children when contrasted with their white counterparts, the former were in lesser likelihood of being diagnosed with the disorder. The same trend was observed among Hispanic children who despite having exhibited a similar trend in ADHD behavior as black children were less likely to be treated for the same.

An attempt to study the nature of disparity led a group of researchers to examine if the same existed due to over-diagnosis of white children for signs of ADHD or due to under-diagnosis or callousness shown in treatment of their Latino and African-American peers. For the purpose of the study, titled “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment,” the scientists analyzed 4,297 children and parents over a period of three waves.

For the research, published online in the journal Pediatrics in August 2016, the scientists made use of the multivariate logistic regression to assess differences in ADHD diagnoses as reported by parents and contrasted the same with medication use in the total sample of children. The research was extended to children with ADHD symptoms and children who either had not been diagnosed or had not shown any symptoms.

Black children under-diagnosed for ADHD problems

An assessment revealed an increased number of African-American children with symptoms akin to ADHD compared to white children belonging to the same age group. The chances of ADHD symptoms in Latino children were found to be similar to their white peers. Interpretation of the results indicated an increased probability of the diagnosis of ADHD in white children as findings revealed 19 percent white children in the 10th grade diagnosed with ADHD compared to 10 percent African-American children and 4 percent Latino children.

Difference in ADHD detection more due to under-diagnosis

The differences in diagnosis of children with ADHD lie in under-diagnosis or improper evaluation of African-American and Latino children and not due to over-diagnosis or excessive indulgence in treatment of the white children. Elucidating the findings, lead author of the study Dr. Tumaini R Coker, a pediatrics researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “There are multiple places where we are missing out for diagnosis and treatment of African American and Latino children and treatment can be difficult if not detected timely.”

Recovery road map

The prevalence of ADHD among children in the U.S. has spurred numerous researches in this direction. While the roots of ADHD are yet unknown, differentiating patients on frivolous grounds has only added to the existing problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that 11 percent American children, aged between 4 and 17 years, were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011. However, the study suggested that the number of ADHD patients could be higher looking at the incomplete assessments done due to discriminatory diagnostic process and outlook.

If you or our loved one is battling some form of mental disorder, including ADHD, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our mental health experts for more information on mental health counseling programs.