August 15, 2023
SEOUL – The number of South Korean children and teens diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has risen by 80 percent over the last four years, a government agency report found.
According to data released by the National Health Insurance Service on Sunday, ADHD diagnoses for individuals aged between 6 and 18 rose from 44,741 in 2018 to 81,512 in 2022, marking an 82.2 percent increase. Of these, 63,182 were male and 18,330 were female.
The global rise in ADHD diagnoses, including in South Korea, is likely due to increased awareness and expanded criteria and does not necessarily indicate a surge in prevalence, experts explain. This trend corresponds with a recent shift in diagnostic criteria from hyperactivity to a greater emphasis on inattention symptoms, writes Samoon Ahmad, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in an article published in Psychology Today.
Despite greater public awareness, institutional support for South Korean teachers dealing with students with the disorder appears insufficient, as highlighted by the surge in student-on-teacher abuse incidents that has sparked nationwide debate of late. A 2022 survey by the Good Teacher Movement, a Christian teachers’ organization, involving 681 educators showed that 37 percent of teachers identified the lack of clear disciplinary guidelines as the primary challenge in managing hyperactive students.
Meanwhile, 78.8 percent advocated for systematic management guidelines in classrooms, a measure necessitating active governmental planning and intervention.
Since 2008, the Education Ministry’s “Wee Project” has offered mental health services to students and parents in need. The program has drawn widespread criticism for not incorporating ADHD-specific strategies, however. Educators also point out that its success largely depends on active parental involvement, which sometimes can be difficult to secure due to stigma or misconceptions about ADHD treatments.