A young boy at home playing on a gaming controller. One in ten pre-teen boys use adhd-medication. LEHTIKUVA

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The Social Medicine Advisory Board of Kela, Finland's social security institution, has raised concerns over the rapid increase in ADHD diagnoses and the subsequent strain on the healthcare system. In their recent meeting, held on May 6, 2024, the board reviewed various aspects of ADHD, including its diagnosis, prevalence, treatment, and related social security benefits.

The meeting highlighted significant regional disparities in ADHD diagnoses across Finland.

Notably, North Karelia has seen the highest rates, with nearly one in five boys aged 7–12 having used ADHD medication. The board emphasized the need to investigate the reasons behind these regional differences, as ADHD treatment for children typically spans several years.

According to the board, the current ADHD treatment guidelines advocate for a holistic approach to diagnosis and care. However, they noted variations in treatment practices across the country. The increasing complexity of data protection regulations poses challenges to uniform diagnostic and treatment monitoring. The board stressed the importance of incorporating information about the implementation of psychosocial support alongside medication data.

While ADHD symptoms begin in childhood, there has been a notable rise in the demand for adult ADHD services. For adults, the diagnostic and treatment planning process must consider co-occurring disorders, potential substance abuse issues, and individual lifestyle and life circumstances.

The surge in ADHD diagnoses has significantly impacted the volume of Kela's social security benefit applications. There has been a marked increase in applications for medication reimbursements and disability allowances related to ADHD. Additionally, ADHD diagnoses are increasingly featured in rehabilitation support and disability pension applications. However, ADHD alone often does not qualify for these benefits; it is typically included as a supplementary diagnosis.

Kela’s discretionary rehabilitation programs, such as LAKU family rehabilitation and the Oma Väylä program for young people, have seen high demand, with approximately 80 percent of participants having ADHD as their primary diagnosis. These programs are funded through a special appropriation granted by the Finnish Parliament, which ensures additional rehabilitation slots. Due to high demand, the criteria for discretionary rehabilitation have become more stringent.

The advisory board expressed concern about the increasing prevalence of functional issues among children, adolescents, and adults. They emphasized the importance of ensuring a supportive developmental environment for children and recommended that ADHD diagnosis and treatment be carried out according to established guidelines.

The Social Medicine Advisory Board at Kela addresses medical questions related to health insurance. It is appointed by Kela’s Board of Directors for a three-year term and plays a crucial role in shaping health-related policies and practices.

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