ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders in children, with about 11% diagnosed. The prevalence among older age groups is significant as well, with about 1 in 20 men and women having ADHD. While not quite as widespread among adults, it’s believed that this age group includes a significant number of people who are undiagnosed. For example, women are underdiagnosed with ADHD due to different presentations in this group compared to men.

With millions of people living with ADHD today, it’s worth thinking about the true costs of this disorder. The financial impact is quite staggering, especially when considering the sheer number of people dealing with ADHD on a daily basis. However, there are other costs that come into play, like how ADHD takes a toll on people personally and professionally.

Learn more about the real costs of ADHD and discover some of the innovative ideas being explored when it comes to treatment and health care for people with this disorder.

How Much Does ADHD Cost?

When we talk about the costs of ADHD, the clearest way to measure that is through the economic burden. That requires looking at a variety of factors related to the disorder, including:

  • ADHD treatment
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Parental work loss
  • Juvenile justice system

One study utilized data from a variety of existing studies to compile a better picture of the total cost of ADHD in children and adolescents. When taking into account all of the economic factors listed above, they found that the estimated cost of ADHD in this age group is $14,576 per person on average. More generally, costs seemed to fall between about $12,00 and $17,500 per person for kids and teens with ADHD.

When you extrapolate these numbers across the U.S. population, the total amount is shocking. These researchers projected an annual cost of $42.5 billion for ADHD in childhood and adolescence. Because this estimate is based on a prevalence rate of just 5%, there’s a strong likelihood that the actual costs could in fact be doubled.

Another study looked more specifically at the educational costs of ADHD. With a significant number of children in kindergarten through twelfth grade having this diagnosis, the financial impact on the country’s education system can be potentially devastating, especially with many public schools working on tight budgets as it is. Unfortunately, researchers found that the average annual cost of a student with ADHD was $5,007 (compared to just $318 for other students).

While studies on the costs of ADHD in adults are less common, the ones that are currently available tell a similar story. Two studies found that adults with ADHD had significantly higher annual medical costs than other adults. The average healthcare costs ranged from $4,929 to $5,651 for adults with an ADHD diagnosis, while costs for those in the control groups was just $1,473 to $2,771. On a nationwide scale, the total excess healthcare costs related directly to the treatment of ADHD in adults was found to be $130 million for women and $400 million for men. Impacts were found in the workplace as well, with workplace productivity and income losses estimated to be around $87 to $138 billion.

Financial Ripple Effects of Untreated ADHD

Without a doubt, ADHD creates a major economic burden in the U.S. Our healthcare and education systems are particularly affected by this disorder, leading to additional spending on a governmental level.

But what about the ways ADHD affects you financially on a personal level? Some factors are obvious, like the cost of ADHD treatments or special education assistance. However, there are other costs that can create additional economic challenges for people with ADHD.

These financial ripple effects become more prominent in adulthood and can impact your life in unexpected ways. The following are just some examples of the less widely recognized financial challenges people with ADHD may have to face:

  • Late payment fees: Organization skills like scheduling, planning, and attention to detail are often difficult for people with ADHD. You might forget to pays bills occasionally, racking up late payment fees in the process.
  • Impulsive buying: If you struggle with impulsive behavior due to ADHD, that could push you to make irresponsible purchases from time to time. The extra costs can lead to credit card debt or cause you to fall short when it’s time to pay for necessities like groceries, gas, and rent.
  • Low credit score: Unpaid bills, debt, excessive spending, and related financial mistakes can cause your credit score to drop and make it more difficult to find financing things like vehicles and housing.
  • Spoiled food: Meal planning can be more complex when you have ADHD, and some people with this disorder struggle up impulsive eating that ruins their appetite later on. Both issues can contribute to additional food waste and sunk costs in groceries which are never prepared and eaten.
  • Accidents: Hyperactivity and a lack of concentration, both of which are common among those with ADHD, can lead to costly incidents like fender benders, mistakes at work, or even injuries. 

The Non-Monetary Costs of ADHD

Some of the costs of ADHD are much harder to quantify. These are the social costs of the disorder which impact people’s lives in ways both big and small. While they may not have financial ramifications, the emotional effects can be pronounced.

Take relationships, for example. Many people with ADHD have wonderfully fulfilling relationships with friends and family. However, certain symptoms of the disorder can create strain in those relationships from time to time, and in some cases, even lead to the end of a relationship.

For example, ADHD can lead to a lack of attentiveness, which could cause someone to feel neglected, unappreciated, or ignored. If someone struggles with emotional impulsivity due to their ADHD, they may blurt out hurtful things or make choices that are hurtful to a family member or friend. Forgetfulness or poor organizational skills could cause a loved one to see you as unreliable. And in a convergence of economic and social impacts, financial struggles like those described in the previous section can cause significant tension in a relationship, especially with a partner.

Another area where the social costs of ADHD come into play is in the workplace. People with this disorder can struggle to keep files organized or remember important project details. Poor time management could lead you to miss deadlines or show up late to meetings. Problems with focus can be viewed as poor productivity, especially if you haven’t shared your diagnosis with coworkers or managers. And as with relationships, there’s also a financial tie since problems like these can put your job in jeopardy and make it difficult to secure strong recommendations from former employers.

Besides relationships and careers, there are other subtle ways that ADHD can take a toll on someone. Time management can make it difficult to set aside time for exercise, and disorganization might cause you to miss important medical appointments and checkups. You might struggle with self-restraint and end up making decisions you later regret. Frustration can build if you consistently struggle to finish a task or follow through on something you want to pursue. Difficulty with multitasking can limit how many activities you can commit to at once.

Even if you can’t place a monetary value on them, these are still real costs of ADHD, and it’s just as important to address them as it is to look for solutions to broader economic impacts. Fortunately, many of these hidden costs can often be effectively addressed through a proper ADHD treatment plan developed with the help of a trusted medical professional.

Strategies for Reducing the Impact of ADHD

There is a pressing need to reduce the negative impacts of ADHD. It’s clear that this disorder creates financial and personal challenges on an individual level. And as a society, we face additional costs when we ignore the needs of those with ADHD.

Fortunately, the growing awareness of ADHD (especially how it presents in adults) has led to some innovative ideas about how to reduce its burden, particularly on an economic level. Some of the possible strategies for minimizing ADHD costs include:

  • Reviewing healthcare plans to make sure they provide adequate coverage for ADHD treatment
  • Investment in ADHD research to develop new treatments and better understand the disorder
  • Offering resources to employees, such as accommodations in the workplace
  • Educational resources in schools and more awareness among staff to help identify ADHD symptoms in students

If you’re someone with ADHD, you might feel overwhelmed by all of these “costs” associated with your disorder. Even if the costs accrue at no fault of your own, it can be hard to face the many ways in which ADHD impacts your life on a daily basis.

Despite the fact that ADHD does come with some downsides, many people come to see their diagnosis as a gift. Perhaps your own diagnosis allowed you to better understand the way your mind works and find solutions that helped you overcome challenges. Some of the symptoms of ADHD can even be framed in a positive light, whether it’s your energy, spontaneity, creativity, or leadership capabilities. While it’s important for our society to find better solutions for the costs of ADHD, we shouldn’t overlook its gifts as well.


Resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17556402/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4123753/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1180839/

https://www.workplacementalhealth.org/mental-health-topics/ad-hd-in-adults/economic-impact-of-adhd-in-the-united-states

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-overcome-common-financial-pitfalls-when-you-have-adhd

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/adult-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder-and-relationships.htm

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/humanity-into-hr/pages/adhd-in-the-workplace.aspx