Are kids being diagnosed with attention disorders for being kids? New research reveals that children born in August were significantly more likely than those born in September to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The findings are interesting because August babies are youngest and September babies are oldest when it comes to school registration in Taiwan, where the study was conducted. Researchers explain that the annual cut-off birthdate for Taiwanese school enrollment is August 31.
The latest study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Mu-Hong Chen and colleagues from Taipei and Taoyuan in Taiwan, involved data from 378,881 children aged four to 17 years old from 1997 to 2011.
Chen and his team looked at the prevalence of children being given ADHD diagnosis and/or ADHD medications. After comparing the youngest children in a grade to the oldest children in the same grade, researchers discovered that kids born in August were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and/or receive ADHD medication than their older, September-born counterparts.
"Both boys and girls born in August had a higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication than those born in September. Sensitivity tests conducted over different periods revealed consistent findings," researchers wrote in their study.
When researchers compared age groups, they found that only preschool or elementary school-aged August children were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and put on ADHD medication. The study revealed no significant differences in ADHD diagnoses between adolescents born in August and those born in September.
Researchers said the study findings suggest that ADHD is being over diagnosed because study evidence reveal that increasing age and maturity diminishes the influence of birth month on ADHD diagnoses.
"Relative age, as an indicator of neurocognitive maturity, is crucial in the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication among children and adolescents. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication for treating ADHD," researchers concluded in their study.
"Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication to treat ADHD," Chen explained in a news release.
The findings are published in The Journal of Pediatrics.