ADHD, By the Numbers
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. Learn how many people have ADHD, and why the numbers continue to grow.
The number of ADHD diagnoses in the United States skyrocketed 43 percent between 2003 and 2011, bringing the total number of American children with ADHD to nearly 6 million, according to 2015 statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC reports that 11 percent of all children in the U.S. aged 4-17 had been diagnosed with ADHD by 2011. The total number of Americans with ADHD continues to rise — up from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and 11 percent in 2011.
Boys are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD (13.2 percent) than are girls (5.6 percent). In adults, the rate is much lower (about 4.4 percent), but experts caution that this reflects only reported diagnoses; the prevalence of ADHD may be significantly higher since many adults, particularly women with inattentive symptoms, remain undiagnosed.
“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,” says Dr. John T. Walkup, who wrote about the CDC study for the Journal of the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “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.”
The CDC’s estimate mirrors high-quality community-based studies conducted over the past few years, which also show a steep increase in diagnoses, but not treatment. Up to 17.5 percent of the children surveyed by the CDC were not receiving medication or mental health therapy to treat their diagnosed ADHD. “The rates of treated ADHD continue to be lower than the rate of ADHD diagnosis,” says Walkup, “suggesting a pattern of under-treatment of ADHD — not of overtreatment, as commonly thought.”
Dr. Russell Barkley has been researching ADHD for many years, and offers additional statistics on aspects of ADHD not necessarily studied by the CDC. The statistics below reflect the findings of Dr. Barkley, as well as those published in various medical journals:
Children with ADHD
- On average, every classroom of 30 students has 1 to 3 children with ADHD.
- Three boys are diagnosed for every one girl.
- The average age of onset is 5 for severe ADHD, 7 for moderate symptoms, and 8 for mild symptoms.
- About half of kids with ADHD are noted to have “severe impairment.”
- 6.1% of U.S. children (ages 4-17) took stimulant medication for ADHD in 2011, up 28% from 4.8% in 2007
- 40% of youth with diagnosable (but not necessarily diagnosed) ADHD symptoms don’t get treatment
- The rate of emotional development for children with ADHD is as much as 30% slower than it is for their children without the condition. For example, a 10 year old with ADHD operates at the maturity level of about a 7 year old; a 16-year-old beginning driver is using the decision making skills of an 11 or 12 year old.
- 75% of boys with ADHD are hyperactive; 60% of girls with ADHD are hyperactive.
- 40% of children who have ADHD have at least one parent who has ADHD.
- Parents of a child with ADHD are three times more likely to separate or divorce than are parents of children without ADHD.
Teens with ADHD
- 3 to 5 percent, or about 2 million, of American teens suffer from ADHD.
- 7 percent of parents will have a teen with ADHD.
- About 80 percent of children who need medication for ADHD still need it as teenagers.
- Teenagers with ADHD have 2 to 4 times as many traffic citations as their peers without ADHD.
- Teens with ADHD have 4 times as many car wrecks and are 7 times more likely to have a second accident.
- Teenage drivers with ADHD sustain 3 times as many car-crash injuries as do teens without ADHD.
- Teenage drivers with ADHD are found to be at fault for car crashes 4 times more often than are their peers without ADHD.
- Teenage drivers with ADHD are 6 to 8 times more likely to have their license suspended or revoked for poor driving behavior.
- 21% of teens with ADHD skip school repeatedly.
- 35% of teens with ADHD eventually drop out of school.
- 45% of teens with ADHD have been suspended.
- 30% of teens with ADHD have failed or had to repeat a year of school.
- Of special needs students who report bullying, the majority of those who are victimized are students diagnosed with mild Austism Spectrum Disorder and students with ADHD.
- Kids with ADHD are more likely to bully other kids.
Adults with ADHD
- 4.4 percent of the adult US population has ADHD, but less than 20 percent of these individuals seek help for it.
- 41.3% of adult ADHD cases are considered severe.
- During their lifetimes, 12.9 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD, compared to 4.9 percent of women.
- About 30 to 60 percent of patients diagnosed with ADHD in childhood continue to be affected into adulthood.
- Adults with ADHD are 5 times more likely to speed
- Adults with ADHD are nearly 50 percent more likely to be in a serious car crash.
- Having ADHD makes you 3 times more likely to be dead by the age of 45
- Anxiety disorders occur in 50 percent of adults with ADHD.
Conditions Related to ADHD
- 65% of children with ADHD have problems with defiance, non-compliance and other problems with authority figures, including verbal hostility and angry outbursts.
- 75% of oppositional defiant disorder manifests by age 14.
- 1 in 4 students with ADHD has other serious learning disabilities in one or more of these areas: oral expression, listening skills, reading comprehension, and math.
- Half of all students with ADHD also have listening comprehension problems.
- About one-third of these students have one or more of the following:
- Language deficits (poor listening comprehension, poor verbal expression, poor reading comprehension)
- Poor organizational skills
- Poor memory
- Poor fine motor skills
- Students with ADHD are 2 to 3 times more likely to have problems with expressive language than are their non-ADHD peers.
- 50% of children who have ADHD also have sleep problems.
- 27,985 children aged 14-21 with autism, emotional disturbance, or other health impairments including ADHD drop out of school each year.
- States in regions with above-average rates of ADHD and LD suspend children at twice the national average.
- States in regions with below-average rates of ADHD and LD suspend children at half the national average.
- Substance abuse is 3 to 4 times greater than the national average for those with untreated ADHD.
- Children with ADHD are 12 times more likely to have Loss of Control Eating Syndrome.
ADHD in Women
Girls with ADHD are more than 5 times more likely than boys with ADHD to be diagnosed with
- Girls with ADHD are 3 times more likely to be treated for a mood disorder before receiving their ADHD diagnosis.
- One-third of women with ADHD have anxiety disorders, and almost half of those have considered suicide.
- ADHD prescriptions spiked 85 percent between 2008 and 2012 for women ages 26 to 34.
- Only 1 percent of ADHD research is focused on the disorder in females.
- 7 percent of severely obese women have ADHD; a fraction 5 times larger than the regular population.
- Girls with ADHD have 5.6 times higher rates of bulimia, and 2.7 times higher chances of developing anorexia.