Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Study Shows a More Than 30 Percent Increase in ADHD Diagnoses Among Children

CHICAGO – Nearly 2.4 million commercially insured children were diagnosed with ADHD, climbing 31 percent from 2010 to 2017, according to a new study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America® series, “The Impact of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on the Health of America’s Children,” found that about 40 percent of children with ADHD were also diagnosed with at least one other behavioral health disorder.  

While there’s a wide variation in the types of treatment children are receiving across the country, nearly half of children with ADHD were treated only with medication in 2017, though the report shows this number is beginning to decline. According to experts, the best way to treat ADHD is through a combination of both medication and behavioral therapy. 

Additional findings from the study are: 

  • ADHD is most prevalent among middle school-aged children (11-13 years old), and boys are diagnosed about twice as much as girls. 
  • Diagnosis rates are higher in the south and lower in the west, with a nearly three-fold difference between the rates of the highest and lowest states. 
  • ADHD accounts for 16 percent of the impact all health conditions have on Generation Z (0-19 years old). 

“Through these findings, we’re seeing a change in what was traditionally understood amongst the medical community, which is that ADHD diagnoses are actually more prevalent among middle school children, not elementary school,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA. “The data also revealed higher diagnosis rates in the south and that region of the U.S. has a larger portion of children treated with medication only. Knowing this information, we’re focused on ways we can provide greater access to therapists and behavioral health experts to change this trend.” 

This is the 25th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence®, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care. The report was done in partnership with HealthCore®, a wholly-owned and independently operated health outcomes subsidiary of Anthem, Inc. This report focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD among commercially insured American children 2-18 years old from 2010-2017. The study population was identified by ADHD diagnosis codes in Blue Cross and Blue Shield medical claims. 

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About Blue Health Intelligence 
Leveraging the power of medical and pharmacy claims data from more than 180 million Americans, Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) delivers insights that empower healthcare organizations to improve patient care, reduce costs, and optimize performance. With the largest, most up-to-date, and uniform data set in healthcare, BHI provides an accurate representation of the health profile of commercially insured Americans. Our team of data analysts, clinicians, IT experts, and epidemiologists provide analytics, software as a service, and in-depth consulting to payers, providers, employers, medical device companies, and other healthcare stakeholders. Blue Health Intelligence is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and carries the trade name of Health Intelligence Company, LLC. For more information, visit

About Healthcore
The HealthCore name and logo are registered trademarks owned by HealthCore, Inc., a wholly owned and independently operated health outcomes subsidiary of Anthem, Inc.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.