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Chapter 5. Health and Wellness

Indicator 46. Disabilities

As part of the National Health Interview Survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a sample of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds were asked, "Has a representative from a school or a health professional ever told you that [child's name] had a learning disability?" The responses to this question revealed differences in the percentage of youth with learning disabilities by sex, race/ethnicity, poverty status, health insurance status, and health status. In 2008, a higher percentage of males (11 percent) than females (7 percent) had ever been diagnosed with a learning disability. An examination of findings by race/ethnicity in 2008 revealed that a greater percentage of Whites (11 percent) than Hispanics (6 percent) had ever been diagnosed with a learning disability. In addition, 9 percent of Black youths had ever been diagnosed with a learning disability in 2008. Youth classified as "poor" had a higher rate of learning disability diagnosis (16 percent) than youth classified as "near-poor" (10 percent) or "nonpoor" (8 percent).17 Health insurance coverage was also associated with learning disability diagnoses: 17 percent of youth with Medicaid or other public coverage had ever been diagnosed, compared to 7 percent of privately insured youth and 4 percent of youth without health insurance. Some 30 percent of youth who reported fair or poor health in 2008 had ever been diagnosed with a learning disability, compared to 17 percent of those in good health and 7 percent in very good or excellent health. From 1999 to 2008, the only measurable difference was a drop in the percentage of uninsured children diagnosed with a learning disability (from 8 to 4 percent).

The National Health Interview Survey also asked parents, "Has a doctor or health professional ever told you that [child's name] had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?" Similar to the rate of diagnosis for learning disabilities, a higher percentage of males than females ages 12 to 17 had ever been diagnosed with ADHD in 2008 (17 vs. 5 percent). White and Black youth also had higher rates of ADHD diagnosis (14 and 11 percent, respectively) than did Hispanic youth (4 percent). In addition, a greater percentage of those covered by Medicaid or other public health insurance (14 percent) than those covered by private insurance (10 percent) or those who were uninsured (7 percent) had ever been diagnosed with ADHD in 2008. Some 9 percent of youth who were described as being in very good or excellent health had ever been diagnosed with ADHD, compared with 18 percent of youth in good health and 26 percent of youth in fair or poor health.

The rates of ADHD diagnosis were higher in 2008 than in 1999 overall and across many characteristics. Overall, 11 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds had ever been diagnosed with ADHD in 2008, compared with 8 percent in 1999. Male youth had higher percentages of ADHD diagnosis in 2008 than in 1999 (17 vs. 11 percent), as did 15- to 17-year-olds (12 vs. 7 percent), White youth (14 vs. 9 percent), and Black youth (11 vs. 5 percent). The percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who had ever been diagnosed with ADHD was also higher in 2008 than in 1999 for those who were "nonpoor," those who were privately insured, and those in good and in very good or excellent health. 

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17 Children in families whose incomes are below the poverty threshold are classified as poor; those in families with incomes at 100–199 percent of the poverty threshold are classified as near-poor, and those in families with incomes at 200 percent or more of the poverty threshold are classified as nonpoor.


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