New research finds undiagnosed adult ADHD could cost billions every year

  • New research from Demos think tank urges action to tackle the socio-economic costs of ADHD, finding the condition drastically affects a person’s ability to be in full-time, paid work.
  • Demos’ research shows that income and productivity losses in adulthood may be the most significant economic burden of undiagnosed ADHD.
  • The report argues that the forthcoming Green Paper on children’s mental health represents an important opportunity for the Government to avoid the huge potential economic costs associated with undiagnosed ADHD in adults.
  • ADHD is widely thought of as a condition that affects children, but Demos’ research calls for a thorough impact assessment of undiagnosed ADHD in adults, an area that is woefully under-examined and could be costing the UK billions of pounds each year.
  • Demos’ in-depth interviews with adults diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood reveal it can have far-reaching and pervasive impacts on all aspects of day-to-day life, affecting people’s ability to be patient, organised, cautious and able to focus, all crucial to a successful adult life.

A new report from Demos think tank estimates that the hidden costs of undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to the economy could amount to billions of pounds every year, and calls for urgent action to uncover the true economic costs.

In a research project spanning three months, Demos conducted in-depth interviews with adults diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, received written testimonials and spoke to experts including academics and journalists, and conducted extensive research to explore the socio-economic impact of undiagnosed and untreated ADHD for people living with the condition, their families and the economy. Demos’ interviews told of the enormous impact ADHD can have on various aspects of a person’s life including, education, work, health and relationships.

Overall, Demos’ research concludes that the majority of costs are associated with adults living the condition – not children – and that the impact on work could be the single biggest cost to individuals, families and the economy. The research recommends that the Government should use the forthcoming Green Paper on children’s mental health as a springboard to avoid the huge potential economic costs associated with undiagnosed ADHD in adults.

A significant number of Demos’ interviewees felt that their underachievement at school was directly related to symptoms of ADHD, which were not treated at the time, and limited their future earning potential. Demos’ research concludes that income and productivity losses in adulthood may be the most significant economic burden of ADHD. Even those in paid work appear to suffer significantly as a result of the symptoms of ADHD.

As part of the report’s recommendations, Demos advises that DWP coaches and employers should signpost people with ADHD to Access to Work, and that health professionals treating children and young people with ADHD should work with other professionals (such as designated senior leads for mental health in schools) to create transition plans ahead of key changes in the individual’s life.

Many of those Demos spoke to in interviews and written submissions described challenges they face developing and sustaining romantic relationships. Demos’ research found that people living with ADHD were at increased risk of falling into negative peer groups as a result of leaving school early and lack of employment leading to greater levels of anti-social behaviour and even crime. Even everyday routines were described as extremely challenging for people living with ADHD.

Demos’ research argues that lack of awareness and understanding of ADHD is inhibiting early diagnosis and intervention, although there is not yet conclusive evidence on the long-term impacts of treatment on education, relationships, work and wellbeing.

Demos recommends that the government work with people with ADHD and the media to develop an awareness-raising campaign, aiming to make ADHD visible to a wider audience and promote better public understanding of the condition.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by excessive activity, problems paying attention and problems controlling one’s behaviour. It is a frequently stereotyped condition often associated with badly behaved young boys. But contrary to common misconceptions, ADHD is a chronic condition that affects people from all backgrounds and frequently persists into adulthood. Many people grow up and become adults without ever being diagnosed, receiving little or no support.

Personal reflections from participants in this research:

“I didn’t drop out of school because of the schoolwork… I didn’t underachieve in the classic sense, I couldn’t cope with going to school.” – Emma, East of England, 51, diagnosed at 46

“I learn the things and do the things I find interesting at the time, but it’s not building up to a coherent whole. My lack of understanding the rules means I’ve got no career momentum.” – Harry, London 46, diagnosed at 42

“Things like getting out of bed, brushing teeth, getting washed and dressed, eating dealing with the very ordinary… sometimes it is really painful to do them and you don’t know why you are struggling like that.” – Emma, East of England, 51, diagnosed at 46.

Based on the findings of the report, Demos also recommends:

  1. The Government should work with people with ADHD and the media to develop an awareness-raising campaign, aiming to make ADHD visible to a wider audience and promote better public understanding of the condition.
  2. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) should develop their government-sponsored schools programme so that it includes advice relating to ADHD.
  3. Initial teacher training (ITT) providers should have a clear focus on supporting children with ADHD in their programmes, in meeting the new requirement for SEND training to form a core part of all ITT courses from 2018.
  4. NHS England should work with CCGs to ensure that they prioritise data collection and use as part of a drive to improve their commissioning of health services for people with ADHD.
  5. Health professionals treating children and young people with ADHD should work with other professionals (such as the proposed Designated Senior Leads for Mental Health in schools) to create transition plans ahead of key changes in the individual’s life.
  6. DWP Work Coaches and employers should signpost people with ADHD to Access to Work

 

Commenting on the report’s findings, the author, Demos researcher Simone Vibert said:

“One of the most striking things about ADHD is how it can lead to difficulties in so many different areas of life: from education and work, to wellbeing and relationships, and many more.

But life with ADHD need not be as challenging as it currently is. With a diagnosis and high-quality support, children and young people with the condition can go on to live happy and successful lives, making the most of their talents, and contribute to society.

We do not know the exact costs of undiagnosed ADHD but, as our research shows, they are likely to be very large indeed. The government needs to take urgent action now to reduce the impact – not just for the benefit of people with ADHD, but for society and the economy.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, Dr Tony Lloyd, CEO of the ADHD Foundation, said:

“Thankfully there is now a wider recognition and understanding of ADHD among the general public, however this has not yet impacted on health, education and employment policy or practice to the extent that it needs to.

Stigma and lack of information must be the only reason why services and support for those with ADHD are still under resourced. The scientific evidence is clear about the nature of the condition and indeed the research evidence that demonstrates that with early diagnosis and intervention, life chances are significantly improved while also making substantial savings in health, education and employability.

The Government should seek to implement all six recommendations as a matter of urgency”.

For more information about this research project, please contact:

Caitlin Lambert – Communications Officer, Demos| 020 7367 4200

NOTES TO EDITORS

The names of all interviewees have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

Methodological Notes

Research for this project took place between August and October 2017. It consisted of a rapid evidence assessment (REA) of academic literature, supplementary desk research, interviews with people diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, written submissions from people diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood and interviews with professional experts and stakeholders.

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research.

About Shire

Shire is the global leader in serving patients with rare diseases. We strive to develop best-in-class therapies across a core of rare disease areas including haematology, immunology, genetic diseases, neuroscience, and internal medicine with growing therapeutic areas in ophthalmics and oncology. Our diversified capabilities enable us to reach patients in more than 100 countries who are struggling to live their lives to the fullest.

We feel a strong sense of urgency to address unmet medical needs and work tirelessly to improve people’s lives with medicines that have a meaningful impact on patients and all who support them on their journey.

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