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Minority Kids Are Less Likely to Get Diagnosed and Treated for ADHD.

Update Date: Jun 24, 2013 10:54 AM EDT
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Minority children have lower rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) not because the disorder is rare for this group of people, but rather, because of the disparities that exist in health care. According to a new study, minority children are less likely to get diagnosed with ADHD and as a result, they miss out on good treatment options that could change how the children grow up and develop.

"We're seeing that the disparities occur as early as kindergarten and then remain and continue until the end of eighth grade," the study's lead researcher, Paul Morgan from the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, said to Reuters Health. "It's a consistent pattern of what we're interpreting as comparative under-diagnosis for minority populations."

This study compiled data of over 17,000 children within the United States from kindergarten and up to the eighth grade. The researchers gathered information by asking parents regularly whether or not their children were diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers took in factors, such as attention and access to healthcare that affect behavior. They found that for Hispanic and Asian children, they were less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD when compared to white children, who were twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated. For African American children, they were two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed in comparison to white children.

Adding on to the fact that minority children do not seem to get diagnosed as often as white children, researchers found that minority children often do not get treated even after a diagnosis. The researchers are unsure as to why these rates of ADHD diagnosis and treatment are so different between races. Several studies have also found this relationships but did not conclude what the exact reasons were for these huge disparitites.

In a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review, researchers found that black children tended to display more symptoms of hyperactivity than white children, yet, black children were less likely to be diagnosed and treated. In a 2012 study printed in the Canadian Medical Association, researchers found that younger children had higher rates of ADHD. This prompted the researchers to wonder if doctors were misdiagnosing ADHD by linking immaturity to the condition. Other health experts believe that ADHD diagnosis or lack thereof could be due to socioeconomic and cultural differences.

The researchers of this latest study found that children without health insurance were less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children from lower-income households were also less likely to be diagnosed. On the contrary, children born to older mothers that were more educated were more likely to be diagnosed.

"What that suggests in our study is that there are children who are likely deserving of a diagnosis, but who aren't receiving a diagnosis, which raises the question of a lack of treatment," Morgan added.

"We know that people with ADHD have higher rates of failing a grade in school, lower academic achievement, lower achievement in their jobs, higher rates of incarceration, higher rates of substance abuse, more problems with relationships, and higher rates of depression and anxiety," a pediatrician from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, Dr. Tanya Froehlich, said according to HealthDay. Froehlich was not a part of the study.

The findings were published in Pediatrics.

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