TEL AVIV – A new study has found a sharp increase in the number of Israeli children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is double the world average, Ynet reported.
The study was based on data from Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of the largest Health Maintenance Organizations in Israel, which examined 500,000 children aged 5-18 who were diagnosed with ADHD or treated with ADHD medication at least twice over a period of ten years.
Researchers found that while 6.8 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2005, 14.4 percent were diagnosed in 2014, which is equal to one in every seven children, twice the world average, which stands at 7.2 percent.
“We haven’t found the genes responsible for it yet, but we certainly saw more ADHD diagnoses among children whose parents or siblings were also diagnosed,” Dr. Michael Davidovich, the head of the Child Development Department at Maccabi and a member of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Medicine, who is leading the research, explained. “There’s a genetic basis, but we haven’t found that specific gene yet.”
Researchers also said that acquired characteristics gleaned from a person’s surroundings lead to ADHD, and point to technological advancements of recent years as the main cause.
“Children today are busy with their smartphones, and that affects them,” Dr. Davidovich said. “The screens cause children to develop a very short attention span, because these screens offer a lot of information that changes at a rapid pace and in a very shallow manner. Children raised with screens have a harder time communicating where these screens don’t exist – like in class, for example.”
He added, “Parents are addicted to smartphones and tablets, and they don’t give their children their full attention – and the child learns and adopts the parents’ behavior.”
Researchers also said that the increase could be explained by better awareness of treatments coupled with social openness that led to more children being sent for diagnosis.
There was also an increase in the number of girls being diagnosed with ADHD.
Until recently, diagnosing ADHD used to be the exclusive domain of neurologists and psychiatrists. These days, family doctors are also allowed to diagnose ADHD, a fact that could have served to increase the number of children diagnosed.
The study found that alongside the increase in the number of children diagnosed, there was a rise in the number of children that receive ADHD medication, including Ritalin.
“Only 60 percent of children need medication,” claimed Dr. Davidovich. “In a lot of cases, emotional treatment and psychological treatment could be enough to deal with the problem, and at times it’s a matter of the parents themselves being guided in how to handle it.”