Geographical variation in ADHD: do diagnoses refect symptom levels?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2022. 10.1007/s00787-022-01996-7
Rates of ADHD diagnosis vary across regions in many countries. However, no prior study has investigated how much within-country geographic variation in ADHD diagnoses is explained by variation in ADHD symptom levels. We examine whether ADHD symptom levels explain variation in ADHD diagnoses among children and adolescents using nationwide survey and register data in Norway. Geographical variation in incidence of ADHD diagnosis was measured using Norwegian registry data from the child and adolescent mental health services for 2011–2016. Geographical variation in ADHD symptom levels in clinics’ catchment areas was measured using data from the Norwegian mother, father and child cohort study for 2011–2016 (n = 39,850). Cross-sectional associations between ADHD symptom levels and the incidence of ADHD diagnoses were assessed with fractional response models. Geographical variation in ADHD diagnosis rates is much larger than what can be explained by geographical variation in ADHD symptoms levels. Treatment in the Norwegian child and adolescent mental health services is free, universally available upon referral, and practically without competition from the private sector. Factors beyond health care access and unequal symptom levels seem responsible for the geographical variation in ADHD diagnosis.