Cost of ADHD

ADHD is not a learning difficulty but it can impede a child’s development and progress because it is associated with problems in using working memory, accessing higher order cognitive functions and in sustaining attention in school and college.

ADHD is associated with:

  • Academic underachievement
  • Unemployment and under-employment
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • School exclusion, particularly amongst boys with ADHD
  • Learning difficulties
  • Early and continuing substance (nicotine, alcohol, narcotic) use
  • Youth offending
  • Family breakdown
  • Admissions to Accident and Emergency for fractures, burns and cuts
  • Fatal road traffic accidents
  • Poor mental health

ADHD is also characterised by difficulties in establishing and sustaining appropriate peer relationships, self-regulating behaviour and relating to significant adults such as parents, carers and teachers.  As such, it interferes with, and compromises, family life and school, by reducing the effectiveness of those protective features of childhood that in typically developing peers, help to build personal skills and resilience.   This in turn can have long term consequences into adulthood.

In November 2017, the ADHD Foundation and other ADHD groups published a report highlighting the cost of ADHD.         Download it here.

Untreated ADHD is extremely expensive in terms of:

  • The cost of providing mental health services for adults with anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance use dependencies.
  • The impact on academic attainment of pupils with ADHD who are excluded from school, placed on part-time timetables or who miss out on broader learning opportunities because they are prevented from participating in school trips and after-school clubs.
  • The impact on parents who are unable to work because they must be available during the working day to support their child, and on siblings who have to become carers.
  • The disproportionate numbers of young offenders who reach the judicial system. Young people with ADHD are 5 times more likely to go to prison or young offenders institutions than their typically developing peers.  Adults with ADHD are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers.  The average annual cost of supporting an adult prisoner is c. £45,000 and this rises to over £275,000 p.a. for young people in secure accommodation.
  • The consequences on individuals and communities of anti-social behaviour and crime
  • Academic under-achievement and economic inactivity. A recent study in Holland estimated the annual loss of tax revenues alone to be around 1 billion Euros. Family members of ADHD patients were estimated to incur 29-33% of costs and education costs reflect 42-62% of the total.

The high costs of untreated ADHD could be avoided if:

  • ADHD was identified and diagnosed (appropriately) at an early stage in childhood
  • ADHD was treated appropriately, not only with medication (where appropriate) but also through parent training and family/school interventions as recommended by SIGN (the Scottish government body which advises on best practice in treating health conditions in the NHS)
  • Professionals and services involved in supporting children had a good awareness and understanding of the condition
  • There was a comprehensive psychiatric service for adults with ADHD in every Health Board in Scotland – both for those with undiagnosed ADHD and those transitioning from child and adolescent services, many of whom are lost to treatment.    This requires training for psychiatrists about ADHD in line with Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland recommendations. 

Getting It Right for Every Child  means that we must ‘get it right’ for children with learning difficulties and mental health disorders and this means improving services for the 37,000 children in Scotland with ADHD.

A healthier, more economically active population will not only reduce the cost of providing expensive treatment and care for the adult population, but increase tax revenues for spending on other national priorities.

That’s why it’s so important that ADHD is appropriately identified and treated early in a child’s life, and the right support is given at home and school.   Support must continue into adulthood, and adults with undiagnosed ADHD need access to diagnosis and treatment too.