The Accuracy Of Current ADHD Statistics

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge
Updated February 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD is a condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Previously separated into ADHD, the condition now comprises three types: ADHD-PI, ADHD-HI, and ADHD “combined type.” In 2020, over 366 million adults worldwide were affected by ADHD symptoms or were diagnosed with ADHD by their healthcare provider.

ADHD prevalence has become a topic of interest, as ADHD statistics show a rise in ADHD diagnoses. Adult ADHD is also gaining attention in clinical children and adolescent psychiatry fields as more research emerges on attention disorders and their comorbidities, such as anxiety disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Individuals interested in learning more about this condition may wonder if the current statistics on ADHD are accurate and if any new research has emerged.

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ADHD is common and treatable

How many people have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the US?

In 2015, the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with a report that stated that the number of adults and children with ADHD in the US was rising steadily. They reported that ADHD diagnosis had been 7.8% in 2003, 9.5% in 2007, and 11% in 2011, based on parent-reported details for ADHD diagnosis.

There was also a notable disparity regarding gender. In children, boys were close to three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, at a rate of 13.2% to 5.6%. However, women and girls may be affected more than studies suggest. Gender bias may cause women to be diagnosed less often than men in some cases. ADHD is also diagnosed less often in Asian, Black, and Hispanic children, and White children with ADHD receive treatment most often, indicating that there is also a racial bias.

How credible are the statistics?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is often regarded as an authority in reporting facts and figures concerning any medical condition.

Their statistics on the rising rates of ADHD are often considered credible. However, the most recent study on these statistics through their labs was from 2016-2019. 

Prevalence of ADHD in other countries

There has been some thought among medical professionals going back several decades that ADHD is a more prevalent concern in the United States children than elsewhere in the world. Doctors and researchers felt that cultural and societal factors in the US might be to blame for the rise in ADHD, leading to more healthcare provider-diagnosed cases.

However, another school of thought in adolescent psychology is that ADHD is as prevalent in other parts of the world. For instance, researchers examined details on adult ADHD from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys, and the study found that the following countries diagnosed adults with ADHD more than the US:

  • Brazil

  • France

  • Ireland

The US was noted as having a diagnostic rate of around 5.2% for adults in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Children in the US are diagnosed more than in other countries, possibly due to better opportunities to seek ADHD treatment, ADHD medication, and social skills training.

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ADHD seems to be widespread

World Psychiatry came out with a study that suggested ADHD is diagnosed in other countries. It may be more commonly diagnosed in the US due to mental health stigmas in certain cultures.

As ADHD becomes more well-known, doctors may gain more information and diagnose it more frequently.

Is ADHD harmful? 

There are numerous ways that ADHD may manifest. Additionally, ADHD can be diagnosed in children and adults. To some, the condition is considered neurodiversity and not a disability.

However, the condition's symptoms may be distressing, confusing, or complex for those living in a society that may not be equipped to handle varying needs and experiences. Those with severe ADHD may experience even more detrimental effects. According to the 2019 National Survey of Children's Health under the sponsorship of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, about 5% of parents report that their child has severe or moderate ADHD; 3.5% reported mild ADHD. ADHD may also be related to other conditions, and many people with ADHD may have comorbidities. For example, about 52% of children diagnosed with Tourette syndrome also have ADHD, and according to the CDC, oppositional defiant disorder is one of the most common disorders that occurs with ADHD.

While it is not life-threatening, ADHD effects can be impactful. Children who can't concentrate might not retain information at school and struggle to pass tests, learn new concepts, or focus on materials. Adults might have a difficult time holding down jobs or focusing on work. They may have issues with their self-esteem or experience co-occurring conditions. One review of studies looking at comorbid mental health disorders in adults with ADHD compared to those without ADHD found that substance use disorder was the most common comorbid psychiatric disorder, followed by mood disorders and anxiety disorders. 

Although these symptoms can be distressing, ADHD is treatable in many cases, and assistive technology could benefit those who hope to adapt their environment to fit their needs. Additionally, accommodations are often available at work and in educational settings within the US and some other countries.

What causes ADHD?

While ADHD research continues to discuss what might cause ADHD, several factors could play a role. One study shows that ADHD has a hereditary rate of 74% or more, meaning parents may be likely to pass it on to their children. The average age of diagnosis for ADHD in the U.S. is seven.

Children might also develop ADHD symptoms from lifestyle or differing needs. In a fast-paced environment, attention span could be lessened, especially as short-form video content and social media become more popular. 

The CDC reports that factors influencing ADHD could include: 

  • Brain injury

  • Exposure to lead

  • Alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy

  • Premature delivery or low birth weight 

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ADHD is common and treatable

Treatment options for a childhood, adolescent, or adult ADHD diagnosis

Content Warning: Please be advised that the following section mentions prescription medication, misuse of medication, and substance dependency. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with questions or concerns. 

Childhood ADHD is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder. If a child (or adult) is diagnosed, they may contact their mental health professional or primary care doctor to discuss treatment. Often, an ADHD screening test is done before providing treatment. 

The recommended treatment for ADHD in adults, children and adolescents is a combination of medication and behavioral treatment in the form of therapy. Several medications on the market are effective in addressing symptoms, and new options may become available in the future. 

If you're considering medication treatment for yourself or your child, search for a doctor or psychiatrist to discuss treatment. There are specific parameters, as explained in this piece in the Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Avoid self-medicating or seeking support through other substances, such as alcohol or illicit drugs. These substances may worsen symptoms or cause other mental health concerns. 

Consider behavioral treatment in therapy 

Counseling can be highly effective for those living with ADHD symptoms, whether they are an adult or a child. Often, counseling is recommended alongside medication for treatment. If you want to discuss ADHD statistics in more detail or learn more about treating your condition, consider reaching out to a therapist. 

For those with ADHD, driving to an appointment, remembering your meeting date and time, and keeping consistency can feel stressful. If you relate, you might benefit from online counseling. Online therapy allows you to meet at a time that feels best for you from any location with an internet connection. You can choose a type of therapy that helps you best keep focus, such as video, phone, or live chat sessions. Additionally, studies show that internet-based interventions are highly effective in treating ADHD. While therapy may not replace medication, it could be valuable in allowing you to learn coping strategies, discuss your experiences, learn about other health resources, and gain insight.

Takeaway

ADHD statistics may constantly change, which is why you might feel unsure whether the statistics you read are accurate. If you have questions or would like support with ADHD or another mental health concern, consider reaching out to a counselor for guidance. Online platforms like BetterHelp for those over 18 or TeenCounseling for those ages 13 to 19 may benefit you or your child.

Gain a better understanding of ADHD

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