Children more likely to be given an ADHD diagnosis when they’re born later in the year

An article published in the Globe and Mail earlier this week (click here) seems to have re-ignited a long-standing debate about the potential over-diagnosis of children with ADHD.

To make a long story short, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study on Monday that found children are much more likely to be given an ADHD diagnosis when they’re born later in the year. Looking at over 937,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 from 1997 to 2007, the study essentially found that “those born in December were 39 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 48 per cent more likely to be given medication as treatment than their peers born in January of the same year.”

On the one hand, many are saying that this is an example of how the health-care system may lead to the over-diagnosis of children with ADHD, where there may simply be a lack of maturity or relative age effects not being taken into account.

On the other, many are saying that this is over-simplifying the complexity of identifying and diagnosing ADHD in children. In fact, some are saying that “it’s also quite possible that December babies aren’t being over-diagnosed with ADHD; rather, the disorder may be going unrecognized in their older peers.”

As Alice Charach, head of the neuropsychiatry team and associate scientist at the research institute of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, puts it, “it’s possible that children born in early months of the year who have ADHD may go unrecognized because they don’t display the reckless, disruptive or immature behaviour of their younger peers.”

Yes, there are two sides to this debate. However, in our humble opinion, it seems to be that there can be one over-arching conclusion taken from these results: take the steps to ensure a proper ADHD diagnosis. An ADHD diagnosis is comprehensive – it involves a number of different factors – so it is that much more important to make sure that you get a comprehensive diagnosis.

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