ADHD – Mapping the spread

I was watching / listening to a fantastic lecture by the RSA the other day in which the speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, talked about modern education systems.  Part of his lecture claimed that ADHD was actually a bit of a myth (this was actually a bit of a sideline to his main point).

As part of his argument to back this up he stated that a diagnosis of ADHD was far more prevalent in the east coast of the USA and the animator drew a smart infographic to illustrate this.

RSA chart showing the distribution of ADHD cases across the USA

(you can watch the whole video at the bottom of this page – highly recommended).

I decided to see if we could use search insights to confirm this.  If it were true, we’d expect far more people to search for words such as ‘ADHD’ in the east coast of the USA.

The maps below show search volume for people searching Google with the words ‘ADHD treatment’.  The darker the blue, the more searches there were for those keywords.  The data is taken from Google’s ‘insights for search’ tool.

As you can see, the data from people searching for ADHD treatment would seem to broadly match what the professor is saying however it becomes more interesting when the data is divided into year by year views below.








So from this we can see interestingly that although the East coast gets most of the blame for the ADHD phenomena, it actually looks as if the trend for ADHD treatment may have started in California?

There are other explanations of course.  ADHD had been around since way before 2004 – it may have been that people in California were more prone to searching the internet in 2004 or they may have even been more concerned about the effects of ADHD treatment.

You may also want to read another post on this blog about the most popular questions asked on search engines.

16 thoughts on “ADHD – Mapping the spread

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment
    didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  2. What is being mapped here is NOT people who are being DIAGNOSED with ADHD it is people searching “ADHD TREATMENT”. It is not the same and should not be presented as such, Sir Ken Robinson’s argument about ADHD what about those being diagnosed not of the frequency of google searches.

  3. I’m not sure how all the above commentators make the connection between what Sir Ken Robinson said, and Internet searches. A Google search gave me results of diagnosed cases by the centre for disease control, which almost identically corresponds with the animated graphic in his talk. (
    It appears that some here has a vested interest in spreading misinformation.

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  5. Unfortunately, the analysis of searches isn’t corrected for population. More people live in the East than in the West, so even if the same percentage were doing searches regarding “ADHD treatment”, the magnitude would still be higher in the East than in the West.

    In the year-by-year analysis, the analysis isn’t corrected for penetration of internet access. Perhaps more people in California were doing searches for anything, since perhaps they were more internet savvy at the time.

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