According to a study published recently, Latino children have lower rates of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD. The Boston Globe reported that, when compared to non-Latino black and white kids, Latinos in the U.S. are diagnosed at approximately half the rate and, when diagnosed with the disorder, they are less likely to be medicated.
Though more research is needed to explain why this is, several medical and mental health professionals have their own theories. Some speculate that certain groups of children are over-diagnosed, others say low Latino rates may indicate a genetic advantage, or the inability to pay for medical care. As reporter Patricia Wen notes in the Globe:
There are recent signs the diagnosis gap may be gradually narrowing, and some clinicians who serve Latino families say they are ambivalent about seeing the community’s rates climb to the national average. While they believe the low ADHD rates among Latino children are largely due to little awareness of the disorder in their communities, or lack of health insurance, they worry that ADHD is too often misapplied to disruptive children whose underlying problem is something else – such as trauma or family problems.
For Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, in terms of being diagnosed, Latino kids may have advantages and disadvantages over their peers. She notes that:
Latino families have a wait-and-see attitude with troubled children and rely heavily on family interventions. She said that newly arrived Hispanic immigrants, despite higher poverty rates, often display signs of strong mental health, largely due to stronger family, community, and religious ties.
Even within the Latino community there are differences between ADHD diagnoses and nationality. According to the report, researchers found that kids whose families come from Mexico have the lowest rates of diagnosis, while those of Puerto Rican descent are closer to the national average.
It seems that a lot more research must be done to figure out this one, leaving the Latino and mental health community with a lot of questions. Are cultural or genetic factors responsible for low diagnosis rates of ADHD in Latinos? And why are some Latinos more likely to be diagnosed than others?
[Photo By CDC]