Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Facts and Statistics

Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN | Published on February 26, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on February 26, 2014

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by difficulty paying attention, impulsive actions, and excess amounts of energy. It frequently appears in childhood. ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that does not typically cease with time, although symptoms may change. An estimated 30 to 70 percent of children with ADHD have symptoms in their adult years, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Doctors classify ADHD in three categories:

  • Predominantly inattentive presentation: This means a child is easily distracted and has difficulty finishing thoughts, assignments, and instructions.
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation: This means a child may have difficulty sitting still for a given period of time or is frequently restless and fidgety.
  • Combined presentation: This means a child has shows symptoms of both ADHD types.

What Is the Prevalence of ADHD?

ADHD occurs in an estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

The condition seems to run in families. An estimated 25 percent of parents who have ADHD will have children that also have ADHD, according to AACAP.

The diagnosis rate of ADHD is increasing. More and more physicians are recognizing and diagnosing ADHD. According to the CDC, the diagnosis rate increased by 3 percent annually from 1997 to 2006, and by 5 percent annually from 2003 to 2011.

The states with the highest percentages of children ages 4 to 17 diagnosed with ADHD via parent reports in 2011 are:

  • Kentucky (18.7%)
  • Arkansas (17%)
  • Louisiana (15.8%)
  • Indiana (15.7%)
  • South Carolina (15.7%)
  • Tennessee (15.2%)
  • North Carolina (14.4%)
  • Delaware (14.3%)
  • Ohio (14.2%)
  • Alabama (14.0%)
  • Mississippi (14.0%)

The states with the lowest parent-reported rates in 2011 for children ages 4 to 17 were:

  • Nevada (5.6%)
  • Colorado (7.1%)
  • California (7.3%)
  • New Mexico (7.5%)
  • New Jersey (7.8%)
  • Utah (8.3%)
  • Hawaii (8.5%)
  • Idaho (8.6%)
  • Alaska (8.8%)

Which Gender Is More Likely to Experience ADHD?

Almost twice as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD as girls. An estimated 13.2 percent of boys are diagnosed with ADHD, while only 5.6 percent of girls have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the CDC.

The average age at which children are diagnosed with ADHD is 7, according to the CDC.

What Treatments Are Available for ADHD?

The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Benzedrine in 1936, the first medication used to treat ADHD. In 1955, the FDA approved Adderall, a medication commonly used to treat ADHD. The extended release (XR) version was approved in 2000.

In 2002, the FDA approved several other medications to treat ADHD, including Ritalin, Ritalin LA (long-acting), Strattera, and Methylin.

Medication is not always required or approved for ADHD. In 2011, an estimated 17.5 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD were neither taking any medication nor undergoing counseling, according to the CDC.

However, the percentage of children with ADHD who take medication has increased from 4.8 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent in 2011.

What Are the Costs Associated With ADHD Treatment?

Medications, counseling, and other treatment interventions for ADHD can be costly. According to the CDC, ADHD treatments can cost an individual anywhere between an estimated $12,005 and $17,458.

Adults with ADHD and parents of children with ADHD can experience lost work days due to ADHD-related conditions. More than 143.8 million lost productivity days are lost each year in 10 countries due to ADHD, according to the CDC.

What Are Some of the Long-Term Effects of ADHD?

Adults with untreated ADHD typically experience greater problems at work and school due to their ADHD. They are also more likely to experience automobile accidents, according to the NAMI.

An estimated one-third to one-half of children with ADHD are also diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, a condition that can cause children to exhibit defiance or hostility toward authority figures.

An estimated 13 to 21 percent of teenagers or young adults with ADHD also have a substance use disorder, where they use illegal drugs or medications not prescribed to them.

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