ADHD News & Research

Study: Nearly One-Quarter of U.S. Children with ADHD Don’t Receive Treatment

Almost 25% of children with ADHD in the United States are not receiving ADHD-specific treatment — and it’s worse in certain states, according to a new study.

June 14, 2022

Nationwide, 23.6% of children diagnosed with ADHD receive no ADHD-specific treatment, according to a new U.S. study analyzing parent responses published in the Journal of Attention Disorders1. The research found that in the state with the lowest ADHD treatment rate, New Jersey, 42.6% of children with ADHD received no form of ADHD-specific treatment — behavioral therapy or medication. Nebraska, the state with the highest treatment, saw a 91.6% treatment rate for children with ADHD, with 81.4% receiving medication. Though the study found wide disparities between states, it also determined that ADHD medication is a more popular treatment nationwide than is behavioral therapy.

The study, which drew from more than 100,000 responses to the National Survey of Children’s Health collected between 2016 and 2019, analyzed lifetime and current ADHD diagnoses as well as estimates of medication and behavioral treatment use. The study authors noted wide disparities in diagnosis and treatment rates across the U.S., and it highlighted the need for state-specific interventions.

Researchers found that ADHD diagnosis rates in children varied from 6.1% to 16.3%, with the Southeast reporting the highest concentration. Louisiana had the highest prevalence of ADHD in children, and California had the lowest, according to the survey data.

Nearly two-thirds of children with ADHD were taking ADHD medication, they survey found. Though state estimates were mostly consistent between 2016 and 2019, the study found that ADHD medication usage rates among children in New York state declined from 73.5% to 38.3% — a significant decrease, especially when compared to the steady estimates from other states.

Only 47.2% of children with ADHD received ADHD-specific behavioral interventions, which are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as a first-line treatment for children. The study authors note that not all children receiving behavioral interventions are receiving evidence-based interventions like those recommended by the AAP, implying that the percentage of children receiving appropriate treatment may be lower than the findings suggest.

The study authors noted various limitations, including potential non-response bias and possible misreporting of ADHD symptoms from parents responding to the survey.

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1Danielson, M. L., Holbrook, J. R., Bitsko, R. H., Newsome, K., Charania, S. N., McCord, R. F., Kogan, M. D., & Blumberg, S. J. (2022). State-Level Estimates of the Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016 to 2019. Journal of Attention Disorders.