ADHD Statistics: How Common Is It?

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 12/28/2020

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most talked about, sometimes controversial, mental health conditions, but how prevalent is this disorder? What are some of the other important facts about it? In this article, you will learn about many of the most important statistics surrounding ADHD, especially regarding how many people have ADHD and who is most affected by it.

ADHD Affects Millions Of Children And Adults

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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood mental disorders, and according to the CDC, it’s estimated that around 6.1 million kids, or over 9 percent of the population aged 2 to 17 years old, in the United States will be diagnosed with the disorder at one point. [1] On average, children will be diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 7. [2]

However, ADHD is a chronic condition that lasts throughout a person’s life, and therefore, not just kids struggle with it. When considering who are aged 18 to 44 years old, the lifetime prevalence of adult ADHD is around 8.1 percent.

It’s also important to note that many people don’t get diagnosed until they are adults or never receive a diagnosis at all. Hence, it’s very realistic that ADHD might be even more common than these estimates show, especially since new adult ADHD diagnoses are on the rise but are still underdiagnosed overall. [4]

ADHD & Demographics

Across all age groups, ADHD affects males more than females by nearly twofold.

In children, boys have a 12.9 percent prevalence rate, whereas girls have 5.6, whereas in adults, men have 5.4, and women have 3.2 percent. [1] [3]

The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but it’s speculated that there may be differences in how symptoms manifest in females, especially younger girls, compared to males, and this can affect the diagnostic process. [4]

In addition to the difference between the sexes and genders, research shows that even though ADHD can affect anyone, certain racial and ethnic backgrounds may be more likely to have the disorder than others.

For example, white and black children are more likely to be diagnosed than Hispanic individuals. It is believed that this may be correlated to language.

Those who grow up in a household where English is the first language are four times more likely to have ADHD than those who speak English as a second language. [6]

One reason why this might be the case is the cultural beliefs surrounding mental health. Certain cultures might have stigmas, and therefore, it can lead to fewer diagnoses for some backgrounds.

However, there may also be a connection between ADHD and education and income levels, and environments that they live in.

Kids who have parents with a high school education or less are more likely to have ADHD than ones whose parents pursued higher education. Consequently, the individuals who are in the lower-income brackets are more prone to it as well. [4]

People who live in rural areas, especially in the southern United States, are also showing higher rates of ADHD than other places in the nation. On the other hand, the western states and people who live in urban and suburban areas demonstrate lower rates of the disorder. [6]

Despite these statistics, ADHD can affect anyone from any ethnic and socioeconomic background, and collectively, the rates continue to increase everywhere.

ADHD & Comorbidity

It is extremely common for ADHD to be comorbid with other mental health disorders across all ages, but there can be some variation between kids and adults.

In children, some of the most frequently seen mental health issues that coexist with ADHD are: [1]

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  • Behavioral and conduct problems (i.e., oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Learning disorders

It’s estimated that around 6 in 10 kids with ADHD will experience another disorder, especially behavior and conduct issues, around 50 percent. [1] Therefore, over half of the children with ADHD will show symptoms such as angry outbursts, argumentative behavior, resentfulness, spite, annoying others, and not taking accountability or blaming others. [5]

Adults are also known to have these types of comorbidity issues as well, and it’s believed that up to 50 percent will either have depression, an anxiety disorder, or both. Bipolar disorder is also common in adults with ADHD. [1]

Some of the behavioral issues seen in childhood can also extend into adulthood. Those who have conduct disorder early on may develop an antisocial personality disorder, which can involve criminal behavior. Overall, personality disorders have been observed in up to 50 percent of adults with ADHD. [4]

Substance abuse is another significant problem for adult ADHD sufferers, as those with the disorder are about 1.5 times more likely to become dependent on substances to cope. Because of this, around 20 to 40 percent of those with adult ADHD will have a substance use disorder. [4]

Treatment Statistics

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Despite the potential for negative outcomes, the good news is that ADHD has very strong treatment rates.

The CDC states that around 3 in 4 children, or 77 percent to be precise, in the United States are currently being treated for ADHD, consisting of medication and behavioral therapy. [1]

Overall, 62 percent of kids with ADHD are taking medication, and just over 46 percent will receive behavioral treatment. Around 32 percent will choose to do both options. [1] [4]

In addition to these conventional treatments for ADHD, around 9 out of 10 kids will receive support from their schools, such as various accommodations. [1]

Still, even though the vast majority of children with ADHD are being treated, 23 percent are not getting help at all. [1]

ADHD And Myths

Compared to many other common mental health ailments, ADHD is filled with the most misinformation and fallacies regarding its causes, treatment methods, and even its status as a condition.

In fact, some of the most frequently mentioned myths surrounding ADHD is that it’s not a real condition or that it’s overdiagnosed, which leads to too many prescriptions being filled out for kids. [7]

The fact of the matter is that every medical and psychological agency recognizes ADHD, and our understanding of ADHD has grown since its first mentioning over a century ago. Doctors, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals can easily identify the signs and symptoms, which can lead to more diagnoses in those who may not have received one in the past.

People also mistakenly attribute ADHD to bad parenting or as an excuse used by children to pardon negative behaviors. While these don’t cause ADHD, parenting techniques and discipline can certainly help improve symptoms.

Importantly, another common myth is that people with ADHD will outgrow their condition. While some people may notice fewer or less severe symptoms as they get older, ADHD is well-known to persist into adulthood, and statistics show that adult ADHD diagnoses are increasing.

Unfortunately, the notion that ADHD is completely temporary prevents people from getting the treatment they need sooner and could have made a significant difference in their lives. However, it’s never too late to get help if you think you have signs of ADHD.

How To Get Help With ADHD

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Whether you’re a child, teenager, or adult, getting treatment for ADHD always begins with a diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional experienced in spotting the signs of ADHD.

There are many different symptoms of ADHD, and individuals, depending on their age, will need to meet a certain amount of them to receive a diagnosis.

If you haven’t made an appointment yet for your child or yourself, you are highly encouraged to do so, so treatment can begin as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can also take this free ADHD test to possibly shed some light on whether or not you or your child is being affected by the disorder or not.

Ultimately, it will depend on the doctor’s assessment, though, which is the only way medication for ADHD can be obtained.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article could share some interesting facts and statistics with you about ADHD and has given you a new outlook on this condition. Although the statistics can seem alarming, the prognosis is good, and more and more people can get the treatment they need to live normal and productive lives.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 04). Data and Statistics About ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  2. Holland, K. (2018, July 23). ADHD by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2017, November). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd.shtml
  4. ADHD Editorial Board. (2020, August 06). ADHD Statistics: New ADD Facts and Research. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/statistics-of-adhd/
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 30). Other Concerns and Conditions with ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/conditions.html
  6. Holland, K., & Riley, E. (2017, October 24). ADHD Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You. Retrieved from https://www.addrc.org/adhd-numbers-facts-statistics-and-you
  7. Kaiser Permanente. (2020, January 31). ADHD Myths and Facts. Retrieved from https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hw164660