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Health care costs for children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder are comparable to costs for asthma care

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma are the most common chronic health problems among children. Children with ADHD—a behavioral disorder defined by ease of distraction, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness—are more likely than other children to have difficulties in school, with family relationships, and delinquency. They also are at increased risk for injury (often due to impulsive behavior), depression, and substance abuse.

A new study shows that the cost of care for both asthma and ADHD are similar, exceeding by $400 to $500 a year the health care costs of the general population of children. However, the types of care differ, with children who have ADHD using more outpatient visits and mental health services.

Conditions such as ADHD have not received the widespread public attention that classic medical conditions such as asthma have. Yet the burden of illness and associated costs of ADHD deserve public health efforts to enhance child health, according to Chunliu Zhan, M.D., Ph.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Dr. Zhan and his colleagues at Boston Children's Hospital used data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative household survey, to compare the health care use and costs of children with asthma or ADHD with those of children without either condition.

After adjusting for the effects of sex, race, poverty status, insurance type, and other factors affecting health care costs, children with ADHD spent $479 more on health care and children with asthma spent $437 more than children in the general population.

More details are in "Health care use and costs for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder," by Eugenia Chan, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. Zhan, and Charles J. Homer, M.D., M.P.H., in the May 2002 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 156, pp. 504-511.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 02-R074) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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