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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Psychiatry 1/2018

ADHD medication in offspring of immigrants — does the income level of the country of parental origin matter?

BMC Psychiatry > Ausgabe 1/2018
Arzu Arat, Viveca Östberg, Bo Burström, Anders Hjern
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12888-017-1572-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Child psychiatric treatment facilities vary greatly worldwide and are virtually non-existent in many low-income countries. One of the most common psychiatric disorders in childhood is ADHD, with an estimated prevalence of 3–5% in Sweden. Previous studies have shown a similar prevalence of ADHD in minority and majority children in Sweden and the UK. However, clinical studies demonstrated that children from immigrant families living in Sweden received less psychiatric care than those of native-born parents. We tested the hypothesis that the consumption of child psychiatric care in immigrant families would be determined by the availability of such treatment in the parents’ country of origin. Patterns of medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were studied as a proxy for child psychiatric care.


This was a register study of dispensed stimulant medication during 2013–2014 in Swedish national birth cohorts from 1995–2009. The study population, consisting of nearly 1.4 million children, was divided by national income of the parental country of origin and whether the parents were native Swedes, European immigrants, non-European immigrants or a mixture. Logistic regression was used to calculate the odds ratios of having been dispensed at least one ADHD drug during 2013, with adjustments for gender, family status indicating whether the child is living with both parents, household income and area of residence.


Having parents born in low-income (OR [95% confidence interval] 0.27 [0.24–0.29]) or middle-income (European: OR 0.23 [0.20–0.26], non-European: OR 0.39 [0.34–0.41]) countries was associated with lower ADHD treatment levels than having parents born in high-income countries (European: OR 0.60 [0.54–0.66], non-European: OR 0.68 [0.59–0.79]), when compared to children of parents born in Sweden. In families with a background in low or middle income countries, there was no significant association between household income and ADHD medication, while in children with Swedish and mixed backgrounds high level of disposable income was associated with lower levels of ADHD medication.


The use of child psychiatric care by immigrant families in Sweden was largely associated with the income level of the country of origin.
Additional file 1: Table S1. Logistic regression of ADHD diagnosis (DOCX 12 kb)
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