Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most frequently diagnosed mental health condition in children, but is a disorder that impacts people of all ages.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition most commonly diagnosed in childhood and adolescence. People with ADHD have difficulty maintaining focus and attention and display high levels of impulsivity. The symptoms of ADHD can negatively impact a person’s ability to function at home, school and work.

Estimates of the number of children diagnosed with ADHD have changed through the years, but the latest ADHD statistics in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, fifth edition (DSM-5) estimate that 5% of children have ADHD.

Prevalence of ADHD

The prevalence of ADHD in the U.S. tends to vary by region. Currently, the incidence of ADHD is highest in the Midwest and lowest in the western region of the United States.

The DSM-5, research studies and other resources provide trends and statistics regarding the prevalence of ADHD and how it relates to aspects of age, gender and region:

  • The DSM-5 states that 5% of children are diagnosed with ADHD.
  • One study showed that 15.5% of children in grades 1–5 had ADHD.
  • The National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) 2003–2011 showed that 1 in 9 teenagers were diagnosed with ADHD in the 11—14 age category and 1 in 10 was diagnosed in the 15–17 age range.
  • In the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), results showed that 4.4% of American adults had ADHD. Of these adults, 38% were women and 62% were men.

Age of Onset

ADHD prevalence rates may differ depending on age. The average age of onset for ADHD is a follows:

  • The ADD Resource Center reports that age 8 is the average age that children with mild ADHD are diagnosed, age 7is the average age that children with moderate ADHD are diagnosed, and age 5 is the average age that children with severe ADHD are diagnosed.
  • One study showed that there was approximately a 5% increase in ADHD diagnoses per year.

ADHD Demographics

Certain demographic factors appear to elevate a person’s risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD demographics show that gender, race and socioeconomic factors are all important aspects when assessing risk.

ADHD racial demographics show that ADHD impacts children from different racial and cultural backgrounds differently:

  • According to the ADD Resource Center, 9.8% of Caucasian children, 9.5% of African American children and 5.5% of Latino children are impacted by ADHD
  • The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) found that 8.4% of children diagnosed with ADHD were Caucasian, 10.7% were African American, 6% were Hispanic, 9.1% were non-Hispanic and 6.6% were classified as “other”
  • Children in households where English is the primary language are four times more likely to be diagnosed than children living in homes where English is the secondary language

ADHD Socioeconomic Demographics

  • Children living two times below the poverty level are at increased risk of developing ADHD
  • Children from low-income families had 6.2 times the odds of having ADHD as high-income children

ADHD Prevalence by Gender

  • Males are at three times higher risk of having ADHD than females
  • The National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) 2003–2011 found that boys continue to be more than twice as likely as girls to have an existing ADHD diagnosis
  • The survey also found that 12.1% of boys are diagnosed with ADHD, as opposed to 5.5% of girls

Risk Factors for ADHD

ADHD risk factors can include genetic, environmental or prenatal aspects. Genetics are a risk factor, as individuals with a parent or sibling with ADHD or another mental health condition are at increased risk of developing ADHD. Environmental risk factors of ADHD can include contact with toxins and pollutants in the environment, such as pesticides or lead. ADHD causes and risk factors may also be related to the prenatal environment, especially if an individual’s mother smoked, consumed alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy. Premature birth, decreased birth weight or head trauma are other risk factors for ADHD.

There are many comorbid conditions with ADHD in both children and adults. These related conditions tend to interfere with the identification, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. The most common conditions linked to ADHD are mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders. In adults, there is also a connection between ADHD and personality disorders. However, substance use disorders are arguably the most common co-occurring condition present in adults with ADHD.

The National Comorbidity Survey found that adults with ADHD were three times more likely to form major depressive disorder, six times more likely to acquire dysthymia and more than four times more likely to have another mood disorder. Comorbidity between bipolar disorder and ADHD is estimated to vary between 9.5–21.2%. People with ADHD are estimated to have about 50% higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

The National Comorbidity Survey also found that people with ADHD are two times more likely to experience substance abuse or dependence. Substance abuse or dependence is about two times as likely for people with ADHD than the general population and alcohol, nicotine, cannabis and cocaine are the most common substances that are misused.

In children, there is a linkage between ADHD and ODD and other conduct disorders, along with ADHD and learning disabilities. Statistics about childhood ADHD demonstrate how commonly ADHD co-occurs with other mental health conditions. Information from the Project to Learn about ADHD in Youth (PLAY) study showed that:

  • Children with ADHD were two times as likely to have another mental health condition when compared to children without ADHD.
  • 60% of children with ADHD and another mental health condition had oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder
  • 25% of children with ADHD had two or more mental health disorders
  • 30–50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability

ADHD Costs

The economic and societal cost of ADHD is often high. Studies show that:

  • Children with ADHD had higher yearly medical costs than those without ADHD, which included hospital visits, primary care doctor visits, outpatient mental health visits and the cost of medication refills
  • The yearly cost of ADHD medications was high, with the highest cost associated with Adderall at $2,567 per year
  • The annual cost of ADHD in the United States is between $143 and $266 billion, mainly associated with production and financial losses
  • ADHD has been linked with criminal activity, as one study found that about 47% of people with ADHD had at least one criminal sentence

ADHD Treatment and Prognosis

Finding the right, comprehensive treatment protocol for ADHD is important in symptom management. Children, teenagers and adults generally respond well to ADHD treatments. A child will react differently to treatment protocols than adults because a child’s brain is still developing.

ADHD treatment often includes behavior therapy, medication, academic interventions in childhood, and organizational and structural supports in adulthood. Behavior therapy seeks to help individuals demonstrate positive behaviors and to remove undesirable behaviors. Several medications are FDA approved for the treatment of ADHD, including stimulants and non-stimulants.

ADHD cannot be cured, but ADHD prognosis and ADHD long-term prognosis are both favorable if ADHD is addressed, managed, and treated appropriately. Children tend to fare well academically and socially if provided with the proper supports early in their development.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring ADHD, The Recovery Village can help. To learn more, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative today.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.