Financial gap between adults with childhood ADHD and those without, widens over time

Adults with childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are expected to earn $1.25 million less than adults without a history of ADHD, over their lifetime, potentially reaching retirement with up to 75 percent lower net worth.

 

Researchers at FIU’s Center for Children and Families reviewed 364 participants with ADHD and 240 without as part of the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS) – one of the largest long-term studies in the country on children with ADHD.

 

Financial outcomes of participants were compared at age 25 and then again at age 30, and researchers found that at age 30, adults with a history of childhood ADHD continue to have worsening deficits across almost all financial indicators, including income, savings, employment status, and dependence on parents and other adults. Nearly half of the adults with childhood ADHD were regularly receiving money from parents, other adults, and/or the government.

 

Moreover, the magnitude of several key ADHD-related deficits had increased from age 25 to age 30. While adults without an ADHD history increased income and savings, moved out from parents’ homes, and transitioned to supporting themselves independently, the ADHD group achieved only small increases in earnings and savings and sustained their financial dependence on parents, family and other adults.

 

“These results show there is great need for interventions that can improve financial functioning as children with ADHD reach young adulthood,” said William E. Pelham Jr., senior author and director of the Center for Children and Families. “Paradigms such as vocational training, supported employment and counseling on personal finances may be of use in developing clinical approaches that can help young adults with ADHD increase income and savings, improve personal finance habits, and reduce dependence on parents, other adults and public assistance.”

 

This is one of a handful of studies of the adverse life-long financial outcomes of childhood ADHD.

 

“It is the first study to use early financial trajectories to project net worth of adults with an ADHD history at retirement,” added co-author Timothy F. Page, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work.

 

Results suggest that the adult after-effects of childhood ADHD translate into close to $30 billion in lost income in the U.S. annually.

 

“Our results suggest that ADHD should be conceptualized as a chronic condition often requiring considerable, potentially lifelong support from others, even into adulthood,” said lead author William Pelham III, of Arizona State University. “Just as children with ADHD have more difficulty than peers in school, adults with a history of ADHD continue to have difficulty in work settings, resulting in lower levels of financial independence in adulthood.”

 

Researchers note that not all children with ADHD have poor financial outcomes as adults. They found that approximately 15 percent of them were employed full-time and were not financially reliant on family members or welfare programs at age 30, compared to 45 percent of those without an ADHD history.

 

Researchers also analyzed adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children, but no longer had any ADHD symptoms at age 30. They too, exhibited substantial and pervasive financial deficits relative to adults who were never diagnosed with ADHD as children, suggesting that the widely accepted diagnostic symptoms of childhood ADHD are unrelated to adult functioning in this key domain of life success.

 

“Interventions for teens and young adults should focus on the development of functional life skills rather than reduction of symptoms, since substantial deficits in financial independence were present even for those adults whose symptoms had completely remitted,” Pelham Jr. said.

 

In addition, results suggested that lower educational attainment may be a key mechanism driving ADHD-related deficits in long-term financial functioning. Adults with ADHD were more likely to have dropped out of high school (9 percent vs. 1 percent) and less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree (14 percent vs. 53 percent)— two educational milestones that are associated with significant increases in earnings. Educational supports and interventions that can help those with ADHD attain these milestones may also be an important means of improving long-term financial outcomes and reducing dependence on parents and families.

 

The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

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