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ADHD Increasing Among Adults

  • November 15, 2019
  • ADHD, Patients and Families

New research published earlier this month finds the number of adults with ADHD has been increasing. The study in JAMA Open Network found the rate of ADHD has been increasing among adults of all races/ethnicities. However, there were substantially lower rates of detection among minority racial/ethnic subgroups. Rates of ADHD and rates remained highest for whites throughout the 10-year study period.

A picture containing person, outdoor Description automatically generatedThe study, led by Winston Chung, M.D., looked at data on more than 5 million adults and 800,000 children who received care at Kaiser Permanente Northern California from 2007 to 2016.

ADHD was four times more prevalent in children than adults, however, the increase in prevalence was much higher among adults. Among children ages 5 to 11, the rate of ADHD increased about 26% over the 10-year period while the rate among adults increased 123% over the same period.

Among adults, ADHD was more likely among

  • Men than women
  • Younger adults compared to older
  • Divorced or separated compared to single adults
  • People with higher incomes compared to lower incomes

After adjusting for demographic characteristics, people with ADHD were more likely to have emergency department visits and more likely to use health care services than people without ADHD.

Chung and colleagues suggest the increase in ADHD among adults may partly reflect an increasing awareness among health care professionals and the public of ADHD in adults. They study authors also address the misuse of ADHD medications particularly among adult-aged students to boost academic performance, noting that “diagnosis seeking to obtain stimulant medication for nonmedical use may be more common among white vs nonwhite patients.” The study found adults who identified as students were at highest risk of ADHD diagnosis.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include impulsiveness, restlessness, disorganization and problems focusing, poor time management skills and problems focusing on a task, poor listening skills and trouble relaxing. Compared to children with ADHD, adults are less likely to be hyperactive, so the symptoms may be less obvious. ADHD symptoms can make everyday tasks more challenging and contribute to problems such as missing meetings or social plans, difficulty prioritizing, focusing and completing tasks.

On the other hand, as recently highlighted in ADDitude Magazine, ADHD can also bring with it several benefits and advantages, including creativity, engaging conversation skills, spontaneity, contagious high energy and a willingness to take a risk


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