80 percent of ADHD patients are males
By Yun Suh-young
Males are more likely to have the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than females according to a study by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA).
Of the ADHD patients aged below 20, the study showed 81 percent of them were male, while 19 percent were female over the past five years. The number of male patients was 4.2 times higher than that of females.
The overall number of patients increased by 18.4 percent to 57,000 in 2011 from 48,000 in 2007 and the medical fees spent by patients jumped 61 percent to 2.23 billion won from 13.8 billion won.
The reasons why males are more prone to the disease are not clear, doctors say.
“There is no clear explanation why more males acquire ADHD than females but it can be attributed to genetic characteristics,” said Han Chang-hwan, professor at the Department of Psychiatry at Hallym University’s Kandong Sacred Heart Hospital. Han released the study in conjunction with HIRA.
“Boys are more active than girls so they get distracted more often. Girls tend to grow up quietly. Some say the disorder is caused by the environment, but nothing is proven scientifically.”
Over 68 percent of the patients with the disorder were those aged between seven and 13. The disorder is usually detected in children aged between three and six.
The disorder is often called the “culture disease” or “city disease” as children show symptoms of the disorder when they’re in a confined environment. If they’re left to play in the fields among nature, they show no signs of the disorder. But such phenomenon cannot scientifically pinpoint the origins, experts say.
“The confined and regulated city environment is often blamed as the cause of the illness. It’s reasonable but not something that can clearly explain the cause,” Han said.
Children tend to grow out of the disorder as they age but help is still needed.
“Usually the children heal naturally as they grow older and move on to middle and high school. But without proper treatment, their childhood can be painful,” said Han.
“Because children with the disorder have very low concentration levels, are easily agitated, and move around excessively, they are often bullied by classmates and are labeled outcasts in class. Such treatment can be more shocking to the child than the disorder itself.”
The problem is that parents are reluctant to take their children to get proper medical attention because they don’t want to admit that their child has a problem.
“The number of young people with the disorder is probably much higher than the study. But Koreans don’t like going to a psychiatrist contrary to the U.S. where the disorder is common and acknowledged. For ADHD, it’s important to get early treatment. Parents must take their child to the hospital if he or she shows symptoms,” Han said.