European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 173–183 | Cite as

The increasing prevalence of reported diagnoses of childhood psychiatric disorders: a descriptive multinational comparison

  • Hjördis O. AtladottirEmail author
  • David Gyllenberg
  • Amanda Langridge
  • Sven Sandin
  • Stefan N. Hansen
  • Helen Leonard
  • Mika Gissler
  • Abraham Reichenberg
  • Diana E. Schendel
  • Jenny Bourke
  • Christina M. Hultman
  • Dorothy E. Grice
  • Joseph D. Buxbaum
  • Erik T. Parner
Original Contribution


The objective of this study is to compare the time trend of reported diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), hyperkinetic disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, and obsessive-compulsive disorder across four countries after standardizing the study period, diagnostic codes used to define the conditions and statistical analyses across countries. We use a population-based cohort, including all live-born children in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Western Australia, from January 1, 1990, through December 31, 2007 and followed through December 31, 2011. The main outcome measure is age-specific prevalence of diagnoses reported to population-based registry systems in each country. We observe an increase in age-specific prevalence for reported diagnoses of all four disorders across birth-year cohorts in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and (for ASD) Western Australia. Our results highlight the increase in the last 20 years in the number of children and families in contact with health care systems for diagnosis and services for an array of childhood neuropsychiatric disorders, a phenomenon not limited to ASD. Also, the age of diagnosis of the studied disorders was often much higher than what is known of the typical age of onset of symptoms, and we observe limited leveling off in the incidence rate with increasing age.


Autism ADHD OCD Tourette’s syndrome Prevalence Time trend 



Hjördis O. Atladottir and Stefan Hansen had full access to the Danish data, David Gyllenberg and Mika Gissler had full access to the Finnish data, Sven Sandin had full access to the Swedish data, and Amanda Langridge had full access to the Australian data. These authors take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analyses. Epidemiological studies in Sweden were supported in part by the National Institutes of Health of the USA (Grant R56MH097849 to Joseph Buxbaum, Christina Hultman and Abraham Reichenberg). David Gyllenberg received research grants from the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, the Foundation for Pediatric Research in Finland and the Finnish Medical Foundation. Amanda Langridge was supported by Program Grant #572742 from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and Helen Leonard by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship #572568. Jenny Bourke was supported by funding from Disability Services Commission for the IDEA Database.

Conflict of interest

The authors of this study had no conflict of interest with the study results.

Supplementary material

787_2014_553_MOESM1_ESM.docx (58 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hjördis O. Atladottir
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David Gyllenberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • Amanda Langridge
    • 5
  • Sven Sandin
    • 6
  • Stefan N. Hansen
    • 2
  • Helen Leonard
    • 5
  • Mika Gissler
    • 7
    • 8
    • 9
  • Abraham Reichenberg
    • 10
  • Diana E. Schendel
    • 11
    • 12
    • 13
  • Jenny Bourke
    • 5
  • Christina M. Hultman
    • 6
  • Dorothy E. Grice
    • 14
  • Joseph D. Buxbaum
    • 15
  • Erik T. Parner
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsAarhus University HospitalAarhusDenmark
  2. 2.Section of Biostatistics, Department for Public HealthAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Child PsychiatryUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  5. 5.Centre for Child Health Research, Telethon Institute for Child Health ResearchUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  7. 7.National Institute for Health and WelfareHelsinkiFinland
  8. 8.Turku UniversityTurkuFinland
  9. 9.NHV Nordic School of Public HealthGothenburgSweden
  10. 10.Departments of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine, and Seaver Center for Autism Research and TreatmentIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  11. 11.Section of Epidemiology, Department of Public HealthAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  12. 12.Department of Economics and Business, National Centre for Register-based ResearchAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  13. 13.Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, iPSYCHAarhusDenmark
  14. 14.Division of Tics, OCD, and Related Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, and the Friedman Brain InstituteIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  15. 15.Department of Psychiatry, Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, and the Friedman Brain InstituteIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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