ADHD’s Impact Over A Lifetime

Measured Effects of ADHD

ADHD prevalence and the debate about whether the condition is over or under diagnosed is a complicated issue and is therefore discussed on its own page.

This page is a collection of studies which compare life outcomes for people with an ADHD diagnosis vs. the general population.

This information can be a little discouraging as a single package. Some thoughts on the subject are here.

Educational Outcomes

(Compares ADHD-diagnosed population to control)

- Parents and teachers are far more likely to report behavioral, emotional, social, and learning difficulties in kids with ADHD vs those without. 1

- A child with ADHD is 2.15 times more likely to not finish high school on time (32.2% vs 15%).  2

- A 19-22 year old with ADHD is 5.3 times more likely to not continue their education after high school (26.9% vs. 4.9%). 3

- 43.6% of young adults with ADHD will enroll in a vocational or junior college vs 18.3% of their peers. 3

- 29.5% of ADHD adults aged 19-22 will enroll in a 4-year college, only 15% of ADHD adults aged 23-32 will have a 4-year degree (51% will not graduate). 3

- A typical adult aged 23-32 is 3.2 times more likely to hold a 4-year college degree (48% vs 15% of ADHD adults). 3

- Only 1 in every 1667 adults with ADHD has a graduate level degree vs. 1 in every 19 of their peers. Put another way, a typical adult is 90 times more likely to attain a PhD vs their ADHD counterpart (.06% of ADHD adults vs 5.4%). 3

Health and Safety

- Adults with ADHD are far more likely to suffer a pre-mature death, mostly from accidents. The magnitude of this effect is greatly affected by age of diagnosis and the presence of other mental disorders. Those diagnosed by age 18 were twice as likely to die prematurely, while those diagnosed at age 18 were four times as likely. ADHD adults who also suffered from depression, addiction, or oppositional and conduct disorders were eight times as likely to die sooner than expected. 1

- Adults with ADHD are more likely to be involved in a car accident, be injured, receive citations, drive distracted, and engage in "road rage". Medication has been shown to improve driving outcomes. 

- A large Swedish study found those with ADHD to be 8.46 times more likely to attempt suicide that their peers, and 12.22 times more likely to follow through on the act. 2 (FYI: link will download PDF)

- Those with ADHD are far more likely than their peers to suffer from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. 3

- ADHD is highly corellated with smoking, drinking, and other drug use. 4

- Girls with ADHD between the ages of 12 and 15 are 2-3 times more likely to become pregnant than their peers - drastically affecting life outcomes. 5

Adults with ADHD are nearly 10 times more likely than their peers to have experienced an unwanted pregnancy and nearly 3 times more likely to have had a sexually transmitted disease. 6

- Poor sleep habits, hygene, and self-care are also widely reported among people with ADHD. 7


(*I'm using the raw, un-adjusted data given in the reports)

- Adults aged 23-32 with ADHD are 7.5 times more likely to be both unemployed and not in school (16.6% vs 2.4%) than the general population. They are roughly half as likely to be both employed and in school, even when controlling for parental education level (16.1 vs 30.1%). 1 (*Adjusted totals place odds closer to 11:1 vs 7.5:1)

- Between ages 23-32, only 1 in 18 of ADHD respondents reported working in a professional occupation vs 1 in 5 of their peers. ADHD respondents were twice as likely to work in an "unskilled" job. 1

- ADHD adults are more than twice as likely to have been fired, are more likely to be laid off from a job, and are more likely to quit a job due to dislike. 1

- ADHD adults between the ages of 23-32 make an average of $2.44 (in 2018, adjusting for inflation) less per hour than their similarly aged peers. 1

- Adults with ADHD take more sickdays, express less satisfaction with their careers, are less productive at work, have more difficulty with social interaction at work, are more likely to be injured while working, and have a hard time managing large workloads. 2

- It is estimated that a household will generate $10,532 to $12,189 less income per year per adult with ADHD when compared to national averages. 2


- ADHD causes broad social problems from childhood on. 1

- Adults with ADHD report lower levels of relationship/marital satisfaction than their peers. 2

- Adults with ADHD are up to twice as likely to get a divorce. 3

- ADHD symptoms can cause communication, intimacy, and stability issues within relationships. 4, 5

- People diagnosed with ADHD report having fewer friends than their peers. 6

- The cumulative effect of criticism and conflict caused by ADHD symptoms can contribute to depression, oppositional disorders, and rejection-sensitive dysphoria. 7, 8


(The good news)

- Treatment starts with education and ADHD is one of the most well researched and understood neurological conditions, with research on the disorder reaching back more than a hundred years. 1

- While severe ADHD can impair almost every aspect of an individuals life, those same areas of impairment often show drastic improvement with effective treatment. One survey of studies showed a 72% improvement across 9 life areas with treatment. 2

- There is no cure. ADHD treatment is about managing the condition and is most effective when it involves multiple treatment approaches (medication, behavioral therapy, coaching). 3

- With proper treatment, education, better communication, and improved intimacy, ADHD's negative impact on individual relationships can be drastically mitigated. 4, 5

- Medication is the most widely used, and most effective method for the treatment of ADHD. While most medications have some side-effects, there are many different medications which work in many different ways - just because one medication isn't effective for you, doesn't mean another (or a combination) won't be a good fit.

- More research is being conducted, and more treatment options developed, every day. More than 40 studies were published in 2010 vs 6 in 1985, and the most recent FDA approved ADHD medication hit the market in 2017. 6