Study: Child’s birth month linked to ADHD diagnose

A study conducted in Taiwan has suggested that the birth date of a child may play a part in determining if the child will be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many children do not actually suffer from ADHD and it is a complex condition which can be wrongly diagnosed at times. Some children have been put on ADHD medication on basis of wrong diagnosis and the issue needs attention from medical community, the research team added.

The researchers discovered that preschool and school-age children, born in August were more vulnerable to be diagnosed with ADHD and getting medication for the same, in comparison to their peers born in September. At this young age, a difference of few months in age, has a major impact on behavior and understanding of a child.

Published on March 10 in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study cleared that the findings aren’t applicable on teens.

In Taiwan, the cutoff birth date for getting into school is August 31, due to which the kids born in August are naturally the youngest ones in their grades, whereas September-born children are usually the oldest.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, said that the age of a child relative to his or her classmates in the same grade could have a notable impact on ADHD diagnosis and the prescription of ADHD medications.

During the study, the researchers collected information from a health insurance database of nearly 380,000 Taiwan schoolchildren of the age group from 4 to 17. They studied the data for many children diagnosed with ADHD by their month of birth, and focused on the ones who were prescribed medication as treatment during a time span of 14 school years.

Chen said that due to the Taiwan’s cutoff dates, kids in the same grade could be nearly one year apart in age. Similar difference in age happens in other countries as well. Chen further explained that the ones having birth dates just before cutoff date for school are quite younger and less mature as compared to their classmates born in rest of the year, mainly the ones born in the first month of the school year.

In a report published by the NewsWire, “As soon as this type of behavior had been classified as a disorder with medicinal origins, pharmaceutical companies started developing medication to treat it. Ever since then, pediatricians widely diagnose ADHD, prescribing medicine to children, even in cases when the child is simply younger, more active or less mature than the rest of the class, a new study that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics has said, the UK Telegraph reports.”

According to a report in TeleGraph by Hannah Ebelthite, “A consultant prescribed Ritalin, then an alternative, both of which Ben hated,” says Susan, 57, a writer from Bristol. “Both drugs seemed to produce paranoia, stomach pains and insomnia. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and would sometimes cower in a corner like a frightened animal. It was heartbreaking. He would cry, saying the side effects were worse than the ADHD. I was terrified he’d kill himself.”

NHS figures released last August showed 922,000 prescriptions were issued in the previous year, leading to fears we’re approaching the Ritalin free-for-all of the US, where more than 10,000 toddlers are thought to take the medication.

“When looking at 378,881 children ages 4 to 17 at some point between 1997 to 2011, they found that preschool and elementary school-age children born in August were 1.65 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 1.73 times more likely to be put on medication than kids born in September—who, because of school cutoff dates similar to those in the US, tend to be nearly a year older than their August counterparts,” according to a news report published by Fox2Now.

Globally, the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD has risen dramatically, researchers note in a press release. “Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication to treat ADHD.” (More than one in 10 kids in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD.)

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