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Adults With ADHD Miss More Workdays

Study Measures Impact on Productivity Among Workers With ADHD
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Adults With ADHD: The Time Loss

Overall, Kessler says, those with ADHD, compared with workers without the condition, put in 22.1 fewer days a year -- nearly a month's worth of workdays. About eight of those days were completely lost because they didn't work or didn't carry out normal activities. The other 14 days had low productivity, where the quantity or the quality of the work suffered, Kessler says.

"People with ADHD have more sick days and lower performance when they work," Kessler tells WebMD. "This is one of those hidden illnesses in the workplace."

Adults With ADHD

The problem of ADHD in the workplace, until now, has not been investigated much, says James T. McCracken, MD, vice chairman of the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California Los Angeles Semel Institute and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital.

"Overall [the study] raises a really important issue," he says. "It takes a look at an aspect of adult ADHD that until now has been not that well quantified -- the work impact."

The numbers obtained by the researchers make sense, he says, from what he has observed with patients.

"The finding that one month a year is lost is very significant from a productivity standpoint," says Thomas Parry, PhD, president of the Integrated Benefits Institute, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that conducts research on workplace health and productivity.

Parry is working with Kessler to develop tools to better measure ADHD in the workplace.

Advice for Adults With Possible ADHD

Workers who have trouble concentrating and focusing, Kessler says, should bring it up with their primary care doctor. "It's worth talking to your doctor because you don't have to live like this."

McCracken agrees, noting that medication can help. Behavioral therapy that addresses key problem areas such as poor organization have been shown to help, too, he says.

The WHO Mental Health Survey Initiative is supported by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, other public health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and other sources. The preparation of the current report was partially supported by Eli Lilly and Co., which makes an ADHD drug, as well as other survey initiative supporters. Lilly had no role in the study design, results, or analysis.

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