The number of African-American and Latino children diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increased at a record rate between 2001 and 2010, according to a study released earlier this month by California-based leading health care provider Kaiser Permanente.
Excerpts of the study were highlighted in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. The study showed the incidence of ADHD increased by 90 percent in non-Hispanic African-American girls. Additionally, non-Hispanic white children were also diagnosed at a higher rate during the same 10-year study period.
In its simplest definition, ADHD is a mild to severe case of restlessness, anxiousness, lack of concentration and irritability.
“Our study findings suggest that there may be a large number of factors that affect ADHD diagnosis rates, including cultural factors that may influence the treatment,” said Darios Getahun, a physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation and a facilitator of the study. Getahun added that children in families with an annual household income of $30,000 or more have a greater chance of developing the disease than other, lower-income groups. However, until the past several years, many African-American and Hispanic families were skeptical and remiss when issues regarding mental health were raised.
“Mental illness has long been a taboo topic in the African-American community–especially when it comes to psychotherapy, drugs and children,” said Kenneth Braswell, a community activist and executive director of Fathers Incorporated (FI) in Brooklyn. Braswell said the stigma of mental illness in the African-American community can be almost as crippling as any of the disorders associated with any emotional issue or psychosis. He added, “Black folks don’t want to admit that something may be wrong with their minds [or the minds of their children].”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Between 4 to 12 percent of all school-age children suffer from mild to severe forms of ADHD. The drugs most commonly used to treat the anxiety and disassociation disorder includes Adderall, Atomoxetine and Ritalin.
“This variability my indicate the need for different allocation of [federal, state or local] resources for ADHD-prevention programs and may point to new risk factors or inequalities in care,” Getuhan concluded.
To view a complete listing of the ADHD study, visit www.kaiserpermanente.org.