Kids with ADHD lose out later in life

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Study: Kids with ADHD lose out later in life

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is well known to trouble children and teens in their school years, but it's also likely to affect sufferers' careers and relationships later in life.

A US study has shown young people diagnosed with ADHD are less likely to gain or sustain employment as adults, and if they are able to hold down a job, will earn significantly less than others.

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A Yale University study of 15,000 Americans who were tracked from their from their teens to around age 30 found that young people diagnosed with ADHD are about 10 to 14 percentage points less likely to be employed. If they do have a job, they earn about 33 per cent less income.

Study leader Jason Fletcher argues early detection of ADHD could help limit the effects the condition has later in life.

But clinical psychologist Chris Allan from the University of Woollongong's Adult ADHD clinic says it is also important not to dismiss detection later in life, and a need for awareness of the prevalence of adult ADHD.

As it is commonly thought that ADHD is a condition that most people tend to grow out of, the long term social effects were alarming.

But the results do not surprise Allan who says children diagnosed were likely to either still sustain the condition as adults, or suffer from after-effects as they outgrow it.

"At least a third of people diagnosed with ADHD in childhood will continue to suffer from this in adulthood, and it can cause poorer outcomes across a range of areas," Allan told The Weekly.

"With adult ADHD there will be problems with attention and problems regulating yourself.

"You're compulsive, fidgety, and your capacity to concentrate in a workplace is poorer than lots of other people so that's going to affect the ability to sustain employment. I observe the same thing in relationships."

And those who outgrow the attention disorder, Allan says, may still feel the hangover of childhood ADHD in their work-life and relationships.

"They don't tend to succeed in school, have relationship problems in school so they're anxious and have low self-esteem," he says.

"It's not an easy lot."

Along with effective medication there are support groups and programs that sufferers can seek to better manage their behaviour, but Allan argues the greatest cause of disruption in the life of ADHD sufferers could be that it often goes undiagnosed.

"People generally think that as an adult, ADD or ADHD couldn't possibly be the cause for their problems, but lots of people have it, or still have it from when they were younger, and don't have it identified. Their behaviours can easily be dismissed by employers," he says.

"If it is identified, there are accommodations that can be made and you can have a good crack at managing your work-life. They may take longer to do things, they may need quite a structured environment with very little distractions going on."

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As understanding as some employers can be, it is difficult to make accommodations for an employer, or a loved one affected by a condition they are not aware of.

"The difficulty is identifying the problem before it can be managed," Allan says.

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