ADHD diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent years, fast becoming the most often diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder. In fact, 5.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition, with between 3 to 7 percent of today's schoolchildren struggling with it. But what becomes of the adults with the condition? It is a question that many parents want the answer to. Now, one study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, has begun filling in the answers - and they aren't pretty.
Rachel Klein from NYU and her colleagues performed a longitudinal study for 33 years. In the experimental group, researchers tracked 135 white men, from similar socioeconomic and family backgrounds, who had all been referred to the Langone Medical Center by their teachers. The average age of the boys was 8 and, while their referrals had come in the 1970s, today these boys would have been diagnosed with ADHD. The boys were tracked and compared to 136 men who had come through the hospital for unrelated purposes and had no history of ADHD. Then researchers conducted interviews of both groups of men when the participants were 41 years old.
Compared to the men without ADHD, the men who would have received the diagnosis suffered in work, home, and life. Men with ADHD left school, on average, two and a half years earlier than their counterparts. Only 4 percent of men with ADHD received a higher degree after high school, while 29 percent of their peers did. The average salary of men with ADHD was nearly 50 percent less than those of their counterparts, making an average of $93,000 with lower-ranking jobs, while the men without ADHD made an average of $175,000. They were also more likely to have been divorced, abused drugs, and labeled with antisocial personality disorder. They were also more likely to have experienced a stay in a psychiatric hospital or prison.
But, while those findings may seem scary, the researchers qualify their findings by saying that the overwhelming majority of adults with ADHD do just fine in life. The majority are married, working (84 percent), and were no more likely to have mood and anxiety disorders. In both groups, salaries went as high as $1.5 million.
ADHD outcomes highly depend on the severity and complexity of the case. Educators, parents, and medical professions alike should be reminded once again to pay attention to the individual needs of the child.
ADHD is characterized by inattention and hyperactive-impulsivity. It often manifests itself differently in boys than in girls. Girls often daydream when inattentive, causing ADHD to go undiagnosed, while boys often fidget.