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ADD & ADHD Health Center

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ADHD Costs Adults $77 Billion in Lost Income

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

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.

The study showed that adults with ADHD were less likely to have a full-time job (34% vs. 57%) and had a job turnover rate that was twice as high over the last 10 years compared with those without ADHD.

Biederman estimates that ADHD's effect on the ability to hold down a full-time job indirectly accounts for about 17% of the projected $77 billion in annual household income losses due to the disorder.

Researchers also found that adults with ADHD were less likely to finish high school or get a college or graduate degree. But the study showed that even when adults with ADHD had attained the same educational levels as others, they still had lower incomes.

"When you look at the average income by education level, we found that even if you have a graduate degree there was a big difference in what you bring home at the end of the day," says Biederman.

In addition, the study showed that ADHD had a major effect in many other aspects of the participants' lives. Compared with adults who don't have ADHD, those with ADHD:

  • Had higher divorce rates
  • Were more likely abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Were less likely to have a positive self-image or be optimistic
  • Reported lower levels of satisfaction with all aspects of their lives

Early Treatment May Prevent Economic Loss

Although as many as 8 million adults in the U.S. have the symptoms of ADHD, studies show that only about 15% of adults with ADHD are aware of their condition, and only a fraction of those receive treatment.

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