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ADHD Costs Adults $77 Billion in Lost Income

Adult ADHD Affects Income and Educational Achievement in U.S.

WebMD Health News

Sept. 9, 2004 (New York) -- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) not only affects adults' mental health, but it may also hurt their wallets. A new study suggests that adult ADHD is responsible for an estimated $77 billion in lost household income in the U.S. each year.

With the economic burden of drug abuse estimated at about $58 billion and alcohol abuse at $86 billion annually, researchers say that cost estimate for ADHD puts the disorder among the most costly medical conditions in the U.S.

The survey showed that, on average, people with ADHD have household incomes that are $10,791 lower for high school graduates and $4,334 lower for college graduates compared with those who do not have the disorder.

Although ADHD is widely thought of as a disorder that affects children and adolescents, researchers say about half of children with ADHD will carry it into adulthood. They say an estimated 8%-11% of American adults suffer from the symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Untreated ADHD can affect a person's financial health by making it more difficult to hold on to a job, causing more lost work days, and making it harder to get the education needed to obtain high-paying jobs, says researcher Joseph Biederman, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"About 50% of the people with ADHD who had jobs in the survey said they lost work directly related to their ADHD symptoms," says Biederman, who presented the study today at an American Medical Association briefing on ADHD in New York City. "The symptoms of ADHD are very difficult for employers to deal with."

Biederman treats many adult professionals with ADHD in his practice and says their employee evaluations often read like an ADHD textbook.

"Cannot follow through with instructions, talks out of turn, etc. These are many of the same things we see in childhood ADHD, but we're seeing it in the workplace," says Biederman.

These ADHD symptoms make it difficult for adults to be successfully employed -- a fact Biederman says was echoed by many of the survey participants who said they were always the last one to be considered for promotion or were consistently under-employed according to their abilities.

Putting a Price Tag on Adult ADHD

In the April-May 2003 survey, researchers interviewed 500 adults by telephone who said they had been diagnosed with ADHD and 501 adults of the same age and sex who did not have ADHD. Researchers asked the participants about their education, work history, income, and other aspects of their lives.

Of those with ADHD, about half said they were diagnosed with ADHD as a child before they were 13 years old. But more than a third (35%) had not been diagnosed until after age 18. Thirty-six percent of adults in the survey with ADHD said they were taking a prescription medication for their disorder.

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