The prevalence of attention-deficit disorders among Hispanic children spiked by 53 percent during the past five years, according to a new government survey.
The rise in ADHD cases in Hispanic children was the most dramatic among ethnic groups – though it could be because Hispanics are becoming more aware of the issue, the survey says.
“This might indicate a shift in cultural acceptance of ADHD or changes in access to care,” said a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Protection released Wednesday.
The rate for Hispanics, however, was still lower than non-Hispanics. They survey says 1 in 10 U.S. children has ADHD, a 22 percent increase from 2003 to 2008. Researchers think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behavior. It's often treated with drugs, behavioral therapy, or both.
The study, which interviews parents of children ages 4 to 17, found that about two-thirds of the children who have ADHD are on medication.
In the latest survey, 9.5 percent said a doctor or health care provider had told them their child had ADHD. The earlier study found that fewer than 8 percent of kids had been diagnosed with it.
Researchers calculate about 5.4 million kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, which suggests that about 1 million more children have the disorder than a few years earlier.
Scientists don't have clear answers about why there was such a significant increase. Study lead author Susanna Visser of the CDC suggests greater awareness and stepped-up screening efforts as part of the explanation.
"Regardless of what's undergirding this, we know more parents are telling us their children have ADHD," Visser said.
One expert found it hard to believe that so many kids might have ADHD. "It sounds a little high," said Howard Abikoff, a psychologist who is director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University's Child Study Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.