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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

New study suggests ADHD affects 3% of over-60s

Embargoed until 09 August 2012

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects around 3% of over-60s, according to a Dutch study. The study, carried out by researchers in The Netherlands, is the first to look at ADHD in older adults – and demonstrates that the disorder does not disappear with age.

1,494 people between the ages of 60 and 94 who were part of the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam from the VU University Medical Centre, participated in the new study. All the participants were given a questionnaire to screen for ADHD, and 231 of those who showed the most symptoms were invited for a longer, structured diagnostic interview.


The researchers estimated the prevalence of ADHD in older adults in The Netherlands to be 2.8% - equating to roughly 95,000 people. The prevalence was higher in ‘younger-olds’ aged 60-70 (4%) compared to ‘older-olds’ aged 70-94 (2.1%). The younger-olds reported having significantly more ADHD symptoms than the older-olds.


Lead researcher and psychologist Marieke Michielsen, of PsyQ Expertise Centre Adult ADHD  in The Hague, said: "There are several possible explanations for this. One may be that people’s symptoms of ADHD diminish with increasing age. Other explanations may be that the diagnostic interview used is not sensitive enough to detect ADHD in people over 70, or even that people with ADHD have a lower life expectancy compared to people without ADHD."


Previous studies of ADHD in children and adults have suggested that ADHD is more common among men than women. But in this study, both men and women reported similar amounts of ADHD symptoms. The researchers believe this may be because prevalence rates converge across the life course.


Marieke Michielsen concluded: "ADHD affects 3-7% of school-aged children, and about 4.4% of adults. However, little is known about ADHD in old age and this is the first epidemiological study on ADHD in older people. With a prevalence of 2.8%, our study demonstrates that ADHD does not face or disappear with age, and that it is a topic very much worthy of further study."

For further information, please contact:
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Michielsen M, Semeijn E, Comijs HC, van de Ven P, Beekman ATF, Deeg DJH and Kooij JJS. The prevalence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in older adults in The Netherlands. British Journal of Psychiatry, epub ahead of print publication, 9 August 2012


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