Stat of the day: AD/HD in black and minority ethnicities

By Angela Matthews

I have been looking at a recent report from ROTA (Race on the Agenda) that looks for links between ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and ethnicity. This came out of some work that ROTA did with BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) groups.

In a ‘Stat of the day’ back in mid-August we saw that the BBC had reported a more than 50 per cent rise in prescriptions to treat ADHD. ROTA’s report actually quotes the Care Quality Commission’s figure of a 56 per cent rise between 2007 and 2012. I was excited at the thought of ROTA presenting us with a breakdown of this increase by ethnicity. Unfortunately, since these figures are based on numbers of prescriptions, no such data is available. There have, however, been other studies – although some warn to approach them open-mindedly (for a variety of reasons).

The studies have generally looked at ‘symptoms’ of ADHD rather than the diagnosis of ADHD itself – such as conduct issues or hyperactivity. Overall, 5.8 per cent of children in the UK are affected by conduct issues. The following figures show the percentage of children affected within each ethnic group:

White 6.1 %
Black 5.9 %
Bangladeshi and Pakistani    4 %
Indian 0.6 %

Other studies have quoted Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean children as being between 1.5 and 2 times more likely to be affected by behaviour, social and emotional disorders.

Why do some BAME groups appear to be more affected by symptoms of ADHD than others? There have been mixed reactions to this. Some say that it is due to stressful, non-inclusive environments (possibly at school). But others say that even seeing “Black” as a category is too broad and does not account for the immensely diverse experiences of the people that fall within it.

What is more confident in terms of what we do know is that when children display symptoms typical of ADHD in school environments, they are often excluded from lessons and alternative activities are often non-academic. Exclusion in this way can lead to low expectations and low self-esteem which, of course, can have an impact on the next years, future education and, potentially, later employment. So, regardless of ethnic origin, the effects could be equally as serious.

The conclusion of ROTA’s report? That there is currently not enough evidence to conclude!

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