Attention deficit disorder takes two years to detect - survey
August 23, 2004
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A disorder beginning in childhood which is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and attention problems often goes undetected for long periods, said a survey of parents in eight countries on Monday.
The survey of 760 families, due to be presented at a Berlin conference on Tuesday, said that while diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) takes a year on average in the United States, it can take three years in Italy.
The average time until diagnosis, measured from when a parent first visited a health professional to talk about a child's behavior to a diagnosis by a specialist, was two years.
"The earlier you treat patients, and the longer you treat them, makes a difference," said Russell Barkley, psychiatry professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, who helped design the survey.
ADHD is a common disorder in childhood and adolescence, affecting 3 to 7 percent of schoolchildren. Barkley said diagnosing ADHD early can prevent severe problems in adulthood.
In the United States adults with ADHD who had received inadequate or no treatment were three to five times more likely to be fired from their jobs, while 75 percent got divorced. Forty percent of untreated teenagers had unwanted pregnancies.
The survey, funded by Eli Lilly, showed 63 percent of parents believed the child's primary care physician did not seem to know much about ADHD.
Barkley said even the two-year average diagnosis time shown by the survey was probably an underestimate because the study focused on successfully treated individuals.
Barkley said a much greater use of schoolteachers to spot the disease early was vital, as was greater awareness among doctors, carers, parents and policymakers.