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The Social, Educational, Financial & Occupational Impact of ADHD

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Research has revealed the striking effects of ADHD on family relationships, health, education, and jobs. One study (Coghill, 2008) asked parents of children 6 to 18 years of age, both with ADHD and without, to complete an online survey about relationships within their families. The survey evaluated the general behavior, and the impact of ADHD on everyday activities. A large number of parents (72%) reported that parent-child relationships were negatively affected by ADHD. In fact, parents reported that almost all of the ADHD youngsters' relationships were adversely affected. According to parents, ADHD significantly interfered with behaviors such as homework, family routines, and playing with other children. Forty-four percent of caregivers reported their children with ADHD were unhappy at school. In addition, parents of ADHD kids reported more frequent injuries requiring medical intervention. These findings support previous research: Living with an ADHD child adversely affects parental wellbeing and family harmony.

As reported by Coghill (2008), studies have followed children with ADHD into their adulthood. These studies report that ADHD frequently persists into adulthood. In children and adults, ADHD is associated with school and occupational difficulties; family and peer relationship problems; low self-esteem; depression; and, anxiety. Teenagers with ADHD are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and experiment with other drugs. These behaviors may be explained by the symptoms of impulsivity and difficulty with self-regulation. One study found that even with treatment, ADHD symptoms continued to affect people's social and occupational functioning into adulthood. Sixty percent of adults with ADHD reported having lost or changed jobs recently. They attributed these negative events to ADHD. More than 36% of adults with ADHD reported having four or more jobs in the last ten years.

Other studies have examined the economic impact of ADHD on individuals and their families. At the time of publication, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is conducting large epidemiological studies of ADHD in communities around the country. The research project is called the Project to Learn About Youth - Mental Health (PLAY-MH). The goal is to increase our understanding of the disorder and to develop effective prevention and intervention methods.

The CDC reported that ADHD impacts social, educational, economic, and healthcare delivery systems. However, the magnitude of the social and economic burden has not been clearly identified. Tendencies towards impulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, increased risk of injuries, and possible substance abuse, all have an adverse effect on the healthcare delivery systems (not to mention a family's own financial situation!). To fully understand the extent of the problem, the CDC emphasizes the importance of examining the disorder's impact on the affected individual, their families, and society. Other associated problems also affect the nation's economy, and affected families. These include: parental work absence due the child's condition and+- increased use of health care services; as well as school-based, educational supports.