Younger students more likely to be prescribed ADHD medications

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Being younger than one’s classmates affects academic performance throughout childhood and into puberty and increases children’s risk of being prescribed stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study from the University of Iceland and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) published November 19, 2012 in Pediatrics. In the study of standardized test scores and medical records for nearly 12,000 Icelandic students aged 9 to 12, students in the youngest one-third of their class were 50% more likely than older peers to be prescribed ADHD medications. Overall, girls performed better academically than boys and were less frequently treated for ADHD than boys.

“Age should be considered when evaluating children for an ADHD diagnosis and a prescription of a stimulant such as Ritalin,” senior author Sonia Hernández-Diaz, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH, said in a November 23, 2012 Boston Globe article. “Parents and teachers need to be aware that kids may just be acting their age if they’re nearly a year younger than some of their peers and are struggling a bit emotionally and academically.”

Read the Boston Globe article

Read the Pediatrics abstract