Adult ADHD Sufferers Face Lost Income, Jobs
Average Loss of $10,000 a Year, More for Professionals
May 25, 2005 (Atlanta) -- If the jitters, short attention span, and the
impulsivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sound like a
recipe for job disaster, you're probably right.
Adult ADHD victims suffer an average of $10,000 a year in lost income --
adding up to a staggering $77 billion annually on the national level,
The higher the job level, the greater the hit: Professionals with
postgraduate degrees lose nearly $40,000 a year, the study shows.
Once thought of as a disease of childhood, more than 8 million adults, or
4.3% of American adults, suffer from ADHD, says Joseph Biederman, MD, professor
of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Reporting here at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association
(APA), Biederman blames the same symptoms that cause young people with ADHD to
perform poorly in school: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.
He describes a downhill spiral, with sufferers going through job after job,
relationship after relationship.
"With any work we do, you have to have discipline to have a
product," he tells WebMD. "If you're forgetful, fall asleep in
meetings, impulsive -- as people with ADHD are -- you're not going to do
ADHD Crimps Abilities
Howard Eist, MD, past president of the APA and a clinical professor of
psychiatry at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., isn't surprised
by the findings.
Describing people who have problems with deadlines, organization, and
prioritizing, he says, "It's not uncommon to be underemployed and not
uncommon to run into job difficulties.
"People with adult ADHD and enormous intellectual horsepower have to
work much harder than a person with much fewer IQ points to accomplish the same
thing," Eist tells WebMD. "If you don't have enormous horsepower and
ADHD crimps your abilities, you'll have to take a lower paying job."
The bottom line, Eist says, is that whether the price tag is "$100
billion or $150 billion, the economic impact is enormous."
So what to do?
Flexible work hours, family leave arrangements, and childcare assistance can
help, according to Biederman. And obviously, correct diagnosis and treatment is
essential, he says, noting that there are two drugs, Adderall and Strattera,
available for adult ADHD, both of which help relieve symptoms in about
two-thirds of people. Lilly, Strattera's maker, is a WebMD sponsor.
ADHD Sufferers Less Likely to Graduate
For the study, the researchers interviewed 1,000 men and women, half of whom
had adult ADHD. It was funded by Shire Pharmaceuticals, the maker of
Among the findings:
- About 17% of adults with ADHD did not graduate from high school, compared
with 7% of those without the condition.
- Just 19% of those with adult ADHD graduated from college vs. 25% of the
adults without ADHD.
- Those with adult ADHD averaged 5.4 jobs in a 10-year period, compared with
3.4 jobs for those without the disorder.
- Only 52% of those with adult ADHD were currently employed, compared with
72% of those without the condition.
- More than four in 10 ADHD victims lost jobs or left them due to their
Even after education was taken into account, the average yearly loss of
household income associated with adult ADHD ranges from $8,900 to $15,400 per
year, the study shows.
Also, adults with ADHD were three times more likely to suffer from
depression, stress, and other mental health problems, the survey shows. And
almost one in four say their symptoms are severe enough to prevent them from
going about their everyday activities.