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Youngest Kids in Class May Be More Likely to Get ADHD Diagnosis
Date:11/19/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new study from Iceland adds to existing evidence that kids are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder if they're among the youngest in their grade at school.

The findings suggest -- but don't prove -- that some children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when they're just less mature than their peers.

"Educators and health-care providers should take children's ages in relation to their [classmates] into account when evaluating academic performance and other criteria for ADHD diagnosis," said study author Helga Zoega, a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Parents can use these findings to help inform their decisions about school readiness for children born close to cutoff dates for school entry."

Debate has erupted in recent years about whether ADHD is overdiagnosed in children who are naturally rambunctious and don't need to be medicated.

Earlier this year, a Canadian study found that more boys aged 6 to 12 were diagnosed with ADHD if they were the youngest in their grade levels: the percentages were 7.4 percent among the youngest boys and 5.7 percent among the oldest.

There also was a gap between older and younger girls, although they're much less likely than boys to be diagnosed with ADHD.

The new study tracked nearly 12,000 children born between 1994 and 1996 in Iceland, where there's also been a debate over the diagnosis of the condition and the use of stimulants to treat it, Zoega said. The researchers looked at the children's test scores at ages 9 and 12, and examined whether they were prescribed drugs for ADHD.

Overall, 740 children -- about 6 percent of the total -- were prescribed ADHD drugs at some point from 2003 to 2009.

Children in the youngest third of their classes were 50 percent more likely
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