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Is the prevalence of ADHD in Turkish elementary school children really high?

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Previous findings in Turkish samples of children have suggested higher prevalence of ADHD than those detected in Western cultures. Methodological problems might explain these findings. Here, we aimed to re-check the prevalence rate of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) along with other childhood psychiatric disorders in a representative school sample of elementary school children in İzmir, Turkey.


The sample consisted of 419 randomly selected primary school children aged 6–14-year-old. We were able to interview 417 cases (99.5 % of the sample). Psychiatric diagnoses in children were assessed using the K-SADS-PL (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children- Present and Lifetime Version) and an impairment criterion scale.


The prevalence rates of ADHD were 21.8 and 12.7 % in children without and with impairment, respectively. The following major mental disorders were significantly more prevalent in ADHD cases than controls: oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) (9.4 versus 0 %), conduct disorder (15.1 versus 0 %), anxiety (17 versus 0.5 %), and mood (5.7 versus 0.8 %).


Our results confirmed a substantially higher ADHD prevalence rate (more than double) than the suggested pooled worldwide prevalence, although similar to the one recently detected in a representative populational sample of children in the US (11 %). These findings, consistent with previous developmental epidemiology studies from Turkey, confirm that ADHD is highly prevalent in Turkish elementary school children.

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Conflict of interest

No financial or material support was taken for the study. Dr. Luis Augusto Rohde was on the speakers’ bureau/advisory board and/or acted as consultant for Eli Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire in the last three years. The ADHD and Juvenile Bipolar Disorder Outpatient Programs chaired by him received unrestricted educational and research support from the following pharmaceutical companies in the last three years: Eli Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire. Dr Ercan is on advisory boards for Eli Lilly, Turkey and Janssen, Turkey. The other authors have no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical statement

Parents provided written informed consents for the participation of their children, and the necessary legal approvals and Ege University Ethical Committee approval were obtained.

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Correspondence to Eyup Sabri Ercan.

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Ercan, E.S., Bilaç, Ö., Uysal Özaslan, T. et al. Is the prevalence of ADHD in Turkish elementary school children really high?. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 50, 1145–1152 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-015-1071-9

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  • ADHD
  • Childhood
  • Epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Inattention