Increase in ADHD Diagnosis Linked to Income Levels

Health Writer
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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects the life of the entire family. Children often struggle in school, not because of intelligence, but because of problems with memory, organization, and planning.

“They have problems taking what they know and using it in an organized and effective way,” says Linda Reddy, Ph.D.

As the director of Fairleigh Dickinson University Child and Adolescent ADHD Clinic, Dr. Reddy understands the debilitating effects ADHD can have: “Many of the children have been unsuccessful in school and unsuccessful making friends. In some cases, parents often feel isolated because of their children’s behavior.”

Now, add to these problems the financial burden that parents must shoulder. The cost of insurance, out-of-pocket expenses, and time off work for doctor appointments and meetings with teachers all contribute to the stress a family feels when dealing with ADHD and other related conditions. For low-income families, moreover, the situation only seems to be getting worse.

Since 2003, ADHD rates have risen by 44 percent. Low-income families, however, have seen the highest increase according to a study published in Pediatrics. Researchers looked at data on asthma, ADHD, and autism from the National Survey of Children’s Health, which was completed three times: in 2003, 2007, and 2011-2012. They found a strong correlation between family income level and the rate of diagnoses for all three conditions. For asthma and ADHD, increases were most prominent among families with low incomes. For autism, however, researchers found the opposite, with increases most prominent among the non-poor. In both asthma and ADHD, researchers also found a strong correlation between a higher level of comorbid conditions and lower incomes.

The researchers did not look for reasons why this correlation exists. However, their results suggest “that many families are struggling financially to [take] care of their children with chronic medical conditions.”

The burden of caring for children with ADHD might only be part of the story. ADHD is considered to run in families, which means that many of the parents also have ADHD, possibly undiagnosed. According to Lana Tiersky, Ph.D., who runs the Adult ADHD Clinic at Fairleigh Dickinson University, “An adult with ADHD may have family problems, be unable to work or enjoy their free time. Some can’t hold jobs or move forward in their careers. Others have poor marital or social relationships.”

The effective management of ADHD should take into consideration that ADHD affects the quality of life of the individual and the family. It should also assess not only the child’s difficulty in specific situations but also their overall quality of life. According to a report published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, “healthcare professionals have an important role in providing balanced and supportive information about ADHD and meeting the needs of affected individuals and their families.”

See more helpful articles:

How ADHD Impacts the Daily Life of a Child

10 Signs of ADHD in Children

The Cost of Care: You Are Not Alone

Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD


Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.