How common is attention deficit disorder? Diagnoses among children continue to rise every year, but the largest (and most unprecedented) surge is among girls and adult women — moms, to be exact. Overall, 11 percent of U.S. children have ADHD, and diagnoses among adults continue to grow.
ADHD Statistics: How Common is ADHD?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 9.4 percent of children (6.1 million) in the U.S. between 2 to 17 years of age have ever been diagnosed with ADHD1 , based on data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. What’s more, a 2014 CDC report2 found a steady increase in the percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 ever diagnosed with ADHD. The figure was recorded at 11 percent in 2012, 9.5 percent in 2007, and 7.8 percent in 2003.
ADHD is more prevalent among boys. The CDC’s 2014 report documented that 15.1 percent of boys had ever been diagnosed compared to 6.7 percent of girls, based on 2011 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. One-third of children diagnosed with ADHD, moreover, retain the diagnosis into adulthood, according to a 2013 study3 that supports recognition of the disorder as a chronic health condition.
“Looking at the changes in rates over time, the reader could have several reactions, but perhaps the most common one will be shock at the high and increasing rates of ADHD diagnoses,” wrote Dr. John T. Walkup, who currently serves as director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a 2014 article4 about the CDC’s report from that same year, adding, “The CDC data suggest that we are getting to a point when children with ADHD in the United States may actually be getting an opportunity for a diagnostic assessment and appropriate evidence-based treatment.” In other words, the increase in ADHD rates over time may reflect the fact that there’s more access to good assessment and treatment because more clinicians and health providers understand ADHD now.
The CDC also found in its 2016 study that, among children with ADHD, almost two-thirds (62 percent) were taking medication, and just under half (46.7 percent) had received behavioral treatment in the past year. Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of ADHD-diagnosed children, however, have received neither. The figures represent a change from the 2014 CDC report that determined up to 17.5 percent of the children surveyed were not receiving ADHD medication or mental health therapy. Walkup wrote at the time of the 2014 report that “the rates of treated ADHD continue to be lower than the rate of ADHD diagnosis, suggesting a pattern of under-treatment of ADHD — not of overtreatment, as commonly thought.”
ADHD Statistics: Children with ADHD
- Per the DSM-V, ADHD is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.5
- ADHD’s worldwide prevalence in children is estimated at 5.3 percent, though figures vary.6
- ADHD in childhood is more prevalent in boys than it is in girls by a 3:1 ratio. The difference attenuates by adulthood, when prevalence is about the same.7 Of course, this data does not reflect the fact that the diagnostic criteria for adult ADHD are less stringent and insufficiently nuanced. Also, because adults may not bring themselves in for assessments, these statistics may not be correct.
- Raising a child with ADHD costs five times more than raising a child without the condition, according to a study that found neurotypical families spend an average of $2,848 per child compared to $15,036 spent by families with ADHD children.8
- Does poor nutrition cause or exacerbate ADHD symptoms? One study9 suggests that a mother’s diet during pregnancy may influence the child’s risk of developing ADHD. Another study10 says a child’s diet does not affect their ADHD risk.
- At least one in five students with ADHD does not receive needed school-based intervention services11
- Approximately 41 percent12 to 55 percent13 of families with at least one child diagnosed with ADHD have at least one parent with the disorder.
ADHD Statistics: Teens with ADHD
- In its 2016 study, the CDC found that 3.3 million adolescents ages 12-17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.
- Teens drivers diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to be in a traffic accident, be issued traffic and moving violations, and engage in risky driving behaviors.14
- Up to 27 percent of adolescents with substance abuse disorder have comorbid ADHD.15
- Adolescents with ADHD clash with their parents about more issues than do adolescents without ADHD.16
- Male high-school students with ADHD are more likely to experience problems with attendance, GPA, homework, and more. Male teens with ADHD miss school 3 to 10 percent of the time; are between 2.7 and 8.1 times more likely to drop out of high school; fail 7.5 percent of their courses; and have GPAs five to nine points lower than those of male teens without ADHD.17
ADHD Statistics: Adults with ADHD
- The worldwide prevalence of adult ADHD is estimated at 2.5 percent,18 although figures vary.
- ADHD is reported to occur in about 4.4 percent of the adult population in the U.S., although this figure is thought to be underreported, as up to 85% of children with ADHD are at risk for having the disorder as adults, and only 10.9% of adults with ADHD receive treatment.19 Most scientists believe adult ADHD remains underdiagnosed20 because diagnostic criteria for ADHD were developed for children and because adults with ADHD often have comorbid psychiatric disorders that may mask the symptoms of ADHD.
- ADHD diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States. The prevalence of ADHD among adults rose from .43% to .96% between 2007 and 2016 — a 123% increase. In children aged 5 to 11, the diagnosis rate rose from 2.96% to 3.74% in the same period.21
- Only 25 percent of adults with ADHD had been diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.22
- Approximately 2 to 8 percent of college students self-report clinically significant symptoms associated with ADHD.23
- Adult ADHD is linked to a near 13-year reduction of estimated life expectancy. Childhood ADHD is associated with a 9.5-year reduction.24
ADHD Statistics: ADHD in Women
- About 45 percent of women diagnosed with ADHD also meet criteria for another disorder.25
- Women with ADHD are at greater risk — by 2.5 times — for major depression compared to women without ADHD.26
- About 28 percent of women classified as obese also have an ADHD diagnosis.27
- Women with ADHD that was not diagnosed until adulthood are more likely to have a history of depression and anxiety than are those without ADHD.28
- Low self-esteem is more prominent in girls with ADHD relative to both typically developing girls and boys, and to boys with ADHD.29
- Teenage girls with ADHD are more likely to: struggle with social, attentional, and organizational difficulties; have poorer self-concept; experience more psychological distress and impairment; and feel less in control of their lives. 30 31
ADHD Statistics: Conditions Related to ADHD
- In its 2016 study32, the CDC reported that:
- Children living in rural areas are more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD and less likely to receive behavioral treatment compared to children in urban areas.
- Among children with ADHD, 14.5 percent were reported to have severe ADHD, 43.7 percent had moderate ADHD, and 41.8 percent had mild ADHD.
- Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of children with ADHD also have another mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder including conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, autism, and Tourette syndrome.
- About 5 in 10 children with ADHD have a behavior or conduct problem.
- About 3 in 10 children with ADHD experience anxiety.
- In a 2011 study, 46 percent of children with ADHD were found to have a learning disability, 14 percent had depression, and 12 percent had speech problems.33
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) occurs in about 40.6 percent of children with ADHD. The disorder is most prevalent among children with combined (50.7 percent) and hyperactive ADHD (41.9 percent) types compared to inattentive ADHD (20.8 percent).34
- ADHD has a 27.4 percent prevalence among obese adults; its likelihood increases as BMI increases.35
- Children with ADHD are 12 times more likely to have Loss of Control Eating Syndrome (LOC-ES), a type of eating disorder similar to binge eating disorder in adults.36
- People with ADHD are at least 1.5 times more likely to develop substance abuse disorders to substances like nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.37
- According to a 2006 study on adult ADHD in the United States38:
- 47.1 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed with any anxiety disorder. Roughly one-third of children and adolescents with ADHD also have anxiety.
- 38.3 percent of adults with ADHD have a mood disorder. Roughly 10 to 30 percent of children and adolescents with ADHD also have a mood disorder.
- Dysthymia is found in 12.3 percent of ADHD adults
- 18.6 percent have major depressive disorder.
- Bipolar disorder is prevalent in 19.4 percent of ADHD adults.
- 20 percent have difficulties with impulse control (intermittent explosive disorder)
- 15 percent of ADHD adults have received a substance abuse disorder diagnosis.
- 5.9 percent have a coexisting alcohol abuse issue
- 5.8 percent have alcohol dependence
- 2.4 percent and 4.4 percent of ADHD adults suffer from drug abuse and drug dependence, respectively.
- Adults with ADHD are three times more likely to develop major depressive disorder, six times more likely to develop dysthymia, and approximately four times more likely to have any mood disorder than adults without ADHD. Children and adolescents with ADHD are also four times more likely to suffer from depression than are their neurotypical peers.
1 Melissa L. Danielson, Rebecca H. Bitsko, Reem M. Ghandour, Joseph R. Holbrook, Michael D. Kogan & Stephen J. Blumberg. (Jan. 24, 2018). Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47:2, 199-212, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5834391/pdf/nihms937906.pdf
2 Visser, S. N. et al. (January 2014). Trends in the Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosed and Medicated Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: United States, 2003–2011. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,Volume 53, Issue 1, 34 – 46.e2. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.09.001. Retrieved from:https://jaacap.org/article/S0890-8567(13)00594-7/fulltext
3 Barbaresi, W., Colligan, R., et. al. (April 2013). Mortality, ADHD, and Psychosocial Adversity in Adults With Childhood ADHD: A Prospective Study. Pediatrics.131(4): 637–644. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2354. Retrieved from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/637
4 Walkup, John T. et al. (January 2014). Beyond Rising Rates: Personalized Medicine and Public Health Approaches to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Volume 53, Issue 1, 14 – 16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.10.008. Retrieved from: https://jaacap.org/article/S0890-8567(13)00745-4/fulltext
5 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.
6 Polanczyk G., De Lima M.S., Horta B.L., Biederman J., Rohde L.A. (2007). The Worldwide Prevalence of ADHD: A Systematic Review and Metaregression Analysis. AM J Psychiatry 164:942–948. Retrieved from: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ajp.2007.164.6.942?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed
7 Barkley, Russell A., ed. (2014). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment. Guilford Publications. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=zlk8BAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
8 Zhao, Xin, et al. (Feb. 23, 2019). Family Burden of Raising a Child with ADHD. SpringerLink. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-019-00518-5. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10802-019-00518-5
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32 Melissa L. Danielson, Rebecca H. Bitsko, Reem M. Ghandour, Joseph R. Holbrook, Michael D. Kogan & Stephen J. Blumberg. (Jan. 24, 2018). Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47:2, 199-212, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5834391/
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38 Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Barkley, R., Biederman, J., Conners, C. K., Demler, O., Zaslavsky, A. M. (2006). The Prevalence and Correlates of Adult ADHD in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. American Journal of Psychiatry. 163, 716-723. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.4.716. Retrieved from: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ajp.2006.163.4.716?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed
Updated on May 22, 2020