Was COVID-19 Responsible for the Rise in ADHD Diagnoses?

Eleven percent of children between 3-17 years of age are estimated to have ADHD, based on a study by Danielson, et al. (2024). This research used 2022 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. This study was conducted during the final year of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Why the sudden increase in ADHD diagnoses? 

A variety of factors could contribute to the increase in ADHD prevalence. For example, a few years prior to this research, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their practice guidelines for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of ADHD. They cited a worldwide prevalence of ADHD at 7.4% with community-based samples from other studies reporting a prevalence as high as 15.5% (Wolraich, et al., 2019). In response to this and other factors, it was recommended any child between the ages of four and 18 years of age, who presents with difficulties in school or behavioral difficulties in addition to inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity, should be evaluated or referred to a professional, who can conduct an evaluation to determine if the child has ADHD. 

The Changes in ADHD

Also, when the DSM-5 was published in 2013, ADHD changed from a condition associated with early childhood to a spectrum of symptoms, which begins in childhood and persists throughout development, into adulthood.  The DSM is the publication used by licensed mental health professionals in the United States and Canada to diagnose mental health conditions (Danielson, et al., 2024). With advances in technology and communication, research about ADHD has advanced. It has been established how genetics play a major role in the development of ADHD. 

ADHD and Autism

The publication of the DSM-5 also allowed for both the diagnosis of ADHD and autism spectrum disorder for the same person. In recent years, research has provided evidence to show having both ADHD and autism spectrum disorder is common. This change to the DSM would also contribute to not only an increase in the number of people diagnosed with ADHD, but also autism spectrum disorder.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes in the ways people lived may have contributed to more people seeking testing to determine if they might have ADHD. Adults and children were likely spending more time together during quarantine, engaging in aspects of work, schooling, and limited socialization all from their homes. This might have been some of the first times people were able to have knowledge of how others around them may have functioned in different environments. Additionally, changes to the everyday routines with quarantine during COVID-19 would have possibly contributed to increased difficulties for people who had ADHD to organize items, belongings, and activities. Increased stress and illness can also exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, so the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped clarify the extent of these difficulties for people, when they may have previously presented with some symptoms associated with ADHD.

Clarity for ADHD

So although the COVID-19 pandemic was not solely responsible for the increased prevalence in the diagnosis of ADHD, factors associated with COVID-19 may have provided clarity for people who had symptoms of ADHD prior to that time, but did not experience significant difficulties in functioning until the pandemic. It is also possible others associated with people who had symptoms of ADHD may have had more opportunities to notice these symptoms during quarantine and their effects on overall functioning. Others may have confronted family members about these symptoms, prompting a discussion about the possibility of having ADHD and encouraging them to be assessed.


Danielson, M. L., Claussen, A. H., Bitsko, R. H., Katz, S. M., Newsome, K., Blumberg, S. J., … Ghandour, R. (2024). ADHD Prevalence Among U.S. Children and Adolescents in 2022: Diagnosis, Severity, Co-Occurring Disorders, and Treatment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2024.2335625 

Wolraich ML, Hagan JF, Allan C, et al. (2019). AAP SUBCOMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WITH ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVE DISORDER. Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 144(4):peds_20192528.pdf (silverchair.com)