Summer babies 'more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD'
Summer babies are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at school because their relative immaturity confuses doctors, a study indicates.
"We believe that younger children may be mistakenly diagnosed as having ADHD, when in fact they are simply less mature.”
Some experts have dismissed ADHD as an excuse used by the parents of naughty children to medicalise unruly behaviour.
Dr Morrill stressed that her research did not challenge the broad medical consensus that attention deficit disorder is a genuine condition, but suggested that some young children are being prescribed drugs such as Ritalin unnecessarily.
The academic acknowledged that there may also be a problem of under-diagnosis among older children, but said this was likely to be secondary cause.
She said: "We are not downplaying the existence or significance of ADHD in children. What our research shows is that similar students have significantly different diagnosis rates depending on when their birthday falls in relation to the school year."
The amount of money spent on prescriptions to treat ADHD in Britain has increased by two-thirds in four years, with schoolchildren now taking £31 million worth of drugs for the condition.
There are concerns that some parents are pressuring their family doctors to prescribe Ritalin as a “quick fix” solution for poor concentration, when counselling and discipline might be preferable.
The latest research, based on an analysis of two US health surveys and a health insurance claims database, is published in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics.