If I had to assign a word to how I feel about my ADHD diagnosis, it would be “affirmed.” Psychologists talk about the dangers of self-diagnosis, mainly because there is so much overlap with mental illnesses. I approached my symptoms with an abundance of caution and was able to make the correct conclusion about what disorder I was struggling with. So it just reassured me that I am the expert of my own experiences.

Khendra, 24

ADHD or attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder—is more common than you might think. It’s one of the most common mental health conditions among children. And the number of adults diagnosed with ADHD has doubled within the last decade. [1] Most of the information below is from a 2016 study about the prevalence—or how common ADHD diagnosis and treatment are in children and adults.

How common is ADHD in children and teens?

If you or someone you know lives with ADHD, then you are not alone. About 129 million children worldwide have ADHD. In the United States in 2016: [2]

  • Nearly 1 in 10 children in the U.S. or about 6.1 million children ages 2-17 or have ever been diagnosed with ADHD
  • 77% of children with a current ADHD diagnosis were receiving treatment—medication, behavioral treatment, or a combination of both. [3]
  • Most children diagnosed with ADHD have mild ADHD.

How common is ADHD in adults?

If you are diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, then you are in good company. Worldwide it’s estimated that 2.8% of adults live with ADHD. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 2.5% to 4.4% of adults live with ADHD. [1] But this number is increasing. In the United States alone:

  • ADHD diagnoses among adults are rising 4 times faster than ADHD diagnoses among children.
  • Many adults who have ADHD are underdiagnosed compared to children who have ADHD.
  • In adults, ADHD often co-occurs with other mental health conditions—such as personality disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder—that can mask symptoms of ADHD.
  • It’s estimated that fewer than 20% of adults living with ADHD are diagnosed or receiving treatment. [1]

ADHD in children and adults by gender

People of any gender can be diagnosed with ADHD. According to available research and data, there are trends in the prevalence of ADHD in girls and boys and women and men. In children, research shows that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This is partly because girls are more likely to have inattentive-type ADHD, which is less visible and doesn’t match stereotypes of ADHD as much as hyperactive/impulsive type does. It’s estimated that many girls living with ADHD are undiagnosed due to bias in the process of diagnosing ADHD. [1] In the U.S., the percentages of girls and boys ages 2-17 living with ADHD were: [1]

GenderPercentage of children diagnosed with ADHD
Girls5.6%
Boys12.9%
GenderPercentage of adults diagnosed with ADHD
Women3.2%
Men5.4%

ADHD in children and adults by race

ADHD can impact children of any race/ ethnic group. But due to bias in ADHD diagnosis, white boys are more likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD than girls and children of color—even when they are showing symptoms.[4][5] Black children living with ADHD often face stereotypes that contribute to underdiagnoses and misdiagnoses. Their behavior is often interpreted as laziness or defiance instead of symptoms of ADHD.[4]

The chart below shows the prevalence of ADHD in children by race: [2]

Race / EthnicityPercentage of children diagnosed with ADHD
White8.4%
Black10.7%
Latinx/Hispanic6.0%
Other6.6%
Non-Latinx/Hispanic9.1%

In adults, the number of people diagnosed with ADHD has increased significantly over time. All ADHD diagnosis rates more than doubled across all race/ ethnic groups in the United States in a single decade. [1]

The same racial disparities children of color with ADHD face, adults of color often experience. [1][5] This includes implicit bias among mental health professionals and inequities in accessing medical care. The underdiagnoses, misdiagnoses, and inequitable treatment of ADHD in adults of color impact critical areas of their lives such as schoolwork, careers, and relationships. [5]

Living with ADHD

Living with ADHD can be a challenge, but it’s not one that you have to face alone. Millions of people worldwide have ADHD, and there are many resources, strategies, and treatment plans that can help. If you think that you may have ADHD, consider taking our ADHD test. You can also check out Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) for additional resources and support.

  1. (2022 April 5). ADHD Statistics: New ADD Facts and Research. https://www.additudemag.com/statistics-of-adhd/
  2. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). (2022). General Prevalence of ADHD. https://chadd.org/about-adhd/general-prevalence/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 23). Data and Statistics About ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  4. Sibonney, C. (2021, July 20). With a Diagnosis at Last, Black Women with ADHD Start Healing. Kaiser Health News. https://khn.org/news/article/black-women-adhd-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-underdiagnosed/
  5. Frye, D. (2022, March 31). The Children Left Behind. https://www.additudemag.com/race-and-adhd-how-people-of-color-get-left-behind/

 


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