ADHD News & Research

Study: ADHD Diagnosis Improves Quality of Life for Adults with Symptoms

Adults with self-reported ADHD symptoms but no previous clinical diagnosis have poorer functioning, self-esteem, and health-related quality of life than do adults with diagnosed ADHD, says a new study that gives credence to the argument for evaluation and diagnosis at any age.

October 3, 2019

Adults who have received an ADHD diagnosis experience improved functioning, better health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and stronger self-esteem compared to adults who demonstrate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) but have no diagnosis, according to a new study in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1

In this study, the impact of an ADHD diagnosis was inferred by comparing outcomes in participants diagnosed with ADHD and those with ADHD-like symptoms but no previous clinical diagnosis. 444 diagnosed participants were compared to 1,055 symptomatic participants within the same sex-by-age group using propensity score matching. Participants in the undiagnosed group were significantly more likely than the others to be first-generation American, non-white, unemployed, or suffer from depression, insomnia, or hypertension.

Sociodemographic characteristics and comorbid conditions were then used to match the two groups, and comparisons were made between 436 diagnosed participants and 867 undiagnosed participants. Diagnosed individuals had a work productivity loss of 29% compared to a work productivity loss of 49% for undiagnosed adults with ADHD symptoms. Diagnosed adults displayed a 37% activity level impairment compared to 53% among those undiagnosed. The diagnosed group earned an average score of 10 on the Sheehan Disability scale; the average score for undiagnosed participants was 15. Diagnosed participants also scored significantly higher on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (19 versus 15).

Researchers concluded that these findings “point to substantial benefits from the treatment that follows diagnosis of adult ADHD.”2 This research was funded by Shire Pharmaceuticals and several of the study authors were employees of Shire at the time of the research and writing.

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1 Pawaskar, M., Fridman, M., Grebla, R., & Madhoo, M. Comparison of Quality of Life, Productivity, Functioning and Self-Esteem in Adults Diagnosed With ADHD and With Symptomatic ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders (May 2019).

1 Faraone, Stephen. “How do undiagnosed but symptomatic adults compare with those diagnosed with ADHD?” APSARD. (Aug. 2019)