A team of researchers led by an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Iceland has found a correlation between the age at which children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begin taking medication, and how well they perform on standardized tests, particularly in math.
The study, titled, "A Population-Based Study of Stimulant Drug Treatment of ADHD and Academic Progress in Children," appears in the July, 2012, edition of Pediatrics, and can be viewed online on June 25. Using data from the Icelandic Medicines Registry and the Database of National Scholastic Examinations, the researchers studied 11,872 Icelandic children born between 1994 and 1996. The children started medication for ADHD at different times between fourth and seventh grades.
The findings showed that children who began drug treatment within 12 months of their fourth-grade test declined 0.3 percent in math by the time they took their seventh-grade test, compared with a decline of 9.4 percent in children who began taking medication 25-to-36 months after their fourth-grade test.
The data also showed that girls benefited only in mathematics, whereas boys had marginal benefits in math and language arts.
"Children who began taking medications immediately after their fourth-grade standardized tests showed the smallest declines in academic performance," said the study's lead author Helga Zoega, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow of Epidemiology at Mount Sinai's Institute for Translational Epidemiology. "The effect was greater in girls than boys and also greater for children who did poorly on their fourth grade test."
Stimulants are widely used in the United States as a therapeutic option for children with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity associated with ADHD. The medications are less frequently used in Europe, although their use in Iceland most closely resembles the U.S. Long-term follow-up studies of stimulant use and academic performance are scarce, according to the researchers.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Iceland Center of Public Health Sciences, Landspitali University Hospital, Iceland, Research Triangle Institute, NC, Boston University Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.
About The Mount Sinai Medical Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Medical School is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 16th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation's top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Of the top 20 hospitals in the United States, Mount Sinai is one of 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and U.S. News & World Report and whose hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place.
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