PURPOSE: Little is known about sociodemographic and clinical factors that predict and act as barriers to ADHD medication independently of symptom severity. We examined the proportion of children using medication for ADHD, age of initiation of medication, and predictors of medication use in a population-representative cohort.
METHODS: Data from the Millennium Cohort Study on child ADHD, medication use for ADHD at age 14 (in 2014-2015) and child, parent and sociodemographic variables were collated. Logistic regression models were used to identify factors that predict medication use for ADHD (the main outcome measure), adjusting for symptom severity at age seven.
RESULTS: The weighted prevalence of ADHD was 3.97% (N = 11,708). 45.57% of children with ADHD (N = 305) were taking medication. The median age at initiation was 9 years (range 3-14). Male gender (AOR 3.66, 95% CI 1.75, 7.66) and conduct problems at age seven (AOR 1.24 95% CI 1.04, 1.47) and 14 predicted medication use at age 14 after adjusting for symptom severity.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study is the first to assess predictors of medication whist adjusting for ADHD symptom severity. Girls with ADHD were less likely to be prescribed medication, even when they displayed similar ADHD symptom levels to boys. Conduct problems also predicted medication independently of ADHD symptoms. ADHD may be more often medicated in boys because clinicians may think a prototypical ADHD child is male, and perhaps conduct problems make boys more disruptive in the classroom, leading to boys being more often treated.