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Younger children more likely over-diagnosed with ADHD: research

(Xinhua)

16:34, March 06, 2012

VANCOUVER, March 5 (Xinhua) -- A new study has found many students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may simply be younger and, therefore, less mature than their classmates.

The study, conducted by University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers and published in the Canadian Medical Journal on Monday, found that, within a class, children born in December were 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children born in January.

December-born children also were 48 percent more likely to be treated with medication than their January-born peers, the report said.

It also said medication to treat ADHD, including Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall and Strattera, can have negative health effects in children, such as sleep disruption, increased risk of cardiovascular events, and slower growth rates.

The researchers suggest younger students within a grade may be diagnosed with ADHD because they are less mature.

"Our study suggests younger, less mature children are inappropriately being labeled and treated," said lead author Richard Morrow, a health research analyst in UBC. "It is important not to expose children to potential harm from unnecessary diagnosis and use of medications."

"This study raises interesting questions for clinicians, teachers and parents," co-author Jane Garland said. "We need to ask ourselves what needs to change. For example, attention to relative age of children for their grade and more emphasis on behavior outside the school setting might be needed in the process of assessment."

The study looked at a large cohort of 937,943 children, who were between 6 and 12 years at any point during the 11-year period covered by the study.

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