As the ranks of kids diagnosed with ADHD in this country continue to swell—to 12% of school-age children and as many as 20% of teenage boys, according to the CDC’s latest count—it becomes more and more urgent to look at what forces might be driving this phenomenon.
The new CDC survey, in addition to measuring the nationwide prevalence of ADHD diagnoses, and how many children are being medicated for the disorder, gives us a tantalizing opportunity to compare figures across states and regions. And that gives us an opportunity to investigate the dramatic discrepancies that appear when you do.
For instance, a child in Kentucky is three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as a child in Nevada. And a child in Louisiana is five times as likely to take medication for ADHD as a child in Nevada. Most of the states with the highest rates of diagnosis and prescriptions for medication are in the South, with some in the Midwest; most of the states with the lowest rates are in the West or Northeast. What accounts for this regional disparity? Stephen Hinshaw, a clinical psychologist, has been asking that question for nearly a decade, along with his colleague at the University of California, Berkeley, Richard Scheffler, a health economist.