The ADHD Gender Gap Is Closing for Older Women
As more women and their medical providers learn about the symptoms of ADHD in adults and the benefits associated with treating them, diagnoses are on the rise — particularly among women in mid-life. Though more men are diagnosed with ADHD overall, data from the 2007 and 2012 U.S. National Health Interview Survey reveal a 31 percent decrease in the gender gap among adults with ADHD, reflecting an increased diagnosis rate among women later in life.
June 26, 2019
The ADHD gender gap is shrinking among adults, according to a new study from researchers at Syracuse University1 that found a 31 percent decrease in ADHD diagnosis discrepancies between women and men from 2007 to 2012. Though ADHD diagnoses among men still outnumber those among women, more women are getting evaluated and diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder later in life, which is causing the gender gap to pinch.
Studying data from the 2007 and 2012 U.S National Health Interview Survey, researchers found a 3.41 percent increase in the prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) among adults aged 18 to 64. Gender differences were most distinct among the youngest cohorts, likely due to an increase in ADHD diagnoses among boys and men born after 1980. Among the older cohorts, however, ADHD diagnosis rates among men and women were more similar.
The researchers attributed this diminishing gender gap to improved diagnostic criteria for ADHD in women, an increased number of referrals for evaluation from general practitioners who understand that ADHD is not a childhood disorder, ongoing research findings, and a growing acceptance that ADHD diagnosis at any age is worthwhile and beneficial to the patient. Intra-cohort gender variations reflected a new propensity to diagnose adults — particularly women previously undiagnosed — at any age.
Researchers concluded that the gender-specific historical period effect was due largely to changes in diagnostic practices and a decrease in diagnostic bias that affected adult women more than adult men.
1 London, A. S., & Landes, S. D. (2019). Cohort Change in the Prevalence of ADHD Among U.S. Adults: Evidence of a Gender-Specific Historical Period Effect. Journal of Attention Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054719855689