MAR 11, 2021 7:00 AM PST

Racial Disparities in ADHD Diagnoses

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Researchers have found significant racial disparities in ADHD diagnoses and treatment: Black, Hispanic, and Asian children are less likely to receive proper assessments and help with managing the condition. This can significantly impact their ability to succeed academically and in life.

Individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, display hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. They typically struggle with focusing on tasks or sitting still for extended periods. Early interventions, however, can be a big help. Access to therapy, medications, specialized learning plans and other tools can help children reach their full potential in school and beyond.

Mayo Clinic researchers were interested in whether there was equal opportunity for all races to access these valuable resources. They studied a cohort of nearly 240,000 children born between 2006 and 2012. Children who identified as Asian, Black, and Hispanic were much less likely to get properly diagnosed and treated as compared to white children.

“Compared with other groups, white children were more likely to receive some kind of treatment. Asian children had the highest odds of receiving no treatment,” the study authors wrote in their JAMA publication. The ripples of this are likely to be felt throughout their lifetimes.

Why do these disparities exist? For now, that is still unclear, although physician bias, distrust of the healthcare system, and a reluctance to seek professional care could be to blame.

Speaking on the outcomes of the study, psychotherapist Mayra Mendez said: “I am not surprised by the research finding that children of color are diagnosed at lower rates than white children, because children of color are often identified as presenting with disruptive behavior problems, conduct problems, oppositional/defiance and learning deficits before considering neurodevelopmentally based explanations for challenges.”

“Also, cultural factors strongly influence the identification of behavioral and/or learning challenges, resulting in increased tolerance for behavioral differences in some cultures and over-responded to in other cultures,” she added.

Mendez says that stakeholders such as psychotherapists, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, teachers, school psychologists, nurses, principals, and behavior support staff have a big role to play in addressing these social inequities. Increasing awareness on the importance of early interventions among these communities could help bridge the gap.
 

Sources: JAMA, Healthline.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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