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Dr Matthew Smith (University of Strathclyde) - 'Hyperactive around the World? The History of ADHD in Global Perspective'

Egenis Seminar

A recent study out of Brazil has claimed that the global rate of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is 5.29%. Any variation in such rates in specific studies, argued the authors, was likely due to methodological problems, rather than differences in the actual distribution of the disorder. According to the authors, such findings give weight to the disorder's 'identity as a bona fide mental disorder ... as opposed to a social construction'. Such reports also strengthen the flawed notion that ADHD is a universal and essential disorder, prevalent in human populations regardless of cultural context, and consistently represented throughout history by the same characteristics.While it is true that the concept of ADHD has spread from the USA, where it emerged during the late 1950s, to most corners of the globe, as suggested by the membership of the ADHD World Federation, such superficial pronouncements mask profound differences in how ADHD has been interpreted in different countries and regions. In this paper, I will compare ADHD's emergence in a number of jurisdictions, including the USA, UK, Scandinavia, China and India, arguing that, while ADHD can be considered a global phenomenon, it remains very much a product of local historical, cultural and political factors.

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Byrne House