14.4 percent of Israeli children were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2014, twice the world average, a new Israeli study found.
The study was based on data from the Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of Israel's largest HMOs, and examined some 500,000 children aged 5-18 who were diagnosed with ADHD or treated with ADHD medication at least twice over a period of ten years.
Researchers - led by Dr. Michael Davidovich, the head of the Child Development Department at Maccabi and a member of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Medicine - found that while 6.8 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2005, 14.4 percent were diagnosed in 2014, meaning one in every seven children.
ADHD is caused by both congenital and acquired characteristics, but researchers "haven't found the genes responsible for it yet, but we certainly saw more ADHD diagnoses among children whose parents or siblings were also diagnosed," Dr. Davidovich told the Israeli Ynet news site.
"There's a genetic basis, but we haven't found that specific gene yet."
Pointing to recent advances in entertainment technology, researchers said a person's surroundings can also lead to ADHD.
"Children today are busy with their smartphones, and that affects them," Dr. Davidovich said.
"The screens cause children to develop a very short attention span, because these screens offer a lot of information that changes at a rapid pace and in a very shallow manner. Children raised with screens have a harder time communicating where these screens don't exist - like in class, for example."
Parent's behavior, however, also affects the children.
"Parents are addicted to smartphones and tablets, and they don't give their children their full attention - and the child learns and adopts the parents' behavior," Dr. Davidovich explained.
The study noted that the increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD could also be explained by better awareness
In addition, the fact family doctors can now also be trained to diagnose ADHD - a field that used to be the exclusive domain of neurologists and psychiatrists - could have also served to increase the number of children diagnosed.
The study found that alongside the increase in the number of children diagnosed, there was a rise in the number of children that receive ADHD medication, such as Ritalin and other drugs.
"Only 60 percent of children need medication," Dr. Davidovich claims.
"In a lot of the cases, an emotional treatment and a psychological treatment could be enough to deal with the problem, and at times it's a matter of the parents themselves being guided how to handle it."