“ADHD” may be a buzzword for moments of distraction, but it’s an actual condition that affects millions. Let’s take a look at the hard numbers.

We all experience moments during the day when we lose focus, drifting from one task to another, not really completing any of them. Could this inability to focus or finish a task mean you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

And many symptoms of ADHD can mimic typical childhood behaviors. So, how do you know whether your child has ADHD or not?

Let’s look at the facts, statistics, and more for ADHD.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder commonly diagnosed in children and teens, but adults can have it too.

Its hallmark symptoms include:

  • having trouble concentrating or focusing
  • having difficulty following instructions
  • being unable to sit still
  • having trouble completing tasks

Symptoms can look different from person to person, like with any condition.

While some kids with ADHD may call out answers without waiting their turn and make inappropriate comments, others with ADHD might be quiet and keep to themselves, daydreaming away at their desks.

Showing any of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean you or your child has ADHD, though. Many other conditions, such as anxiety, can have similar symptoms.

If you’re concerned that it could be ADHD, here are some facts you need to know.

ADHD is a common childhood condition.

According to a national 2016 parent survey, an estimated 6.1 million (9.4%) U.S. children have received an ADHD diagnosis.

Broken down by ages, this number includes:

  • 388,000 children 2 to 5 years old
  • 2.4 million children 6 to 11 years old
  • 3.3 million children 12 to 17 years old

Among teens 13 to 18 years old, males (13%) are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than females (4.2%).

ADHD affects children of all races, too. It affects:

  • 16.9% of Black children
  • 14.7% of white children
  • 11.9% of Hispanic children

Children receive ADHD diagnoses at different ages. The more severe the symptoms, the earlier a diagnosis can be made:

  • For severe ADHD, the median age of diagnosis is 5 years old.
  • For moderate ADHD, the median age of diagnosis is 7 years old.
  • For mild ADHD, the median age of diagnosis is ADHD is 8 years old.

Demographic factors can affect the number of children who receive an ADHD diagnosis.

Household income

According to a 2013 study, children living in lower-income households (below 100% of the poverty level) are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than those who live in higher-income households.

Among those households, Black children (20.2%) were more likely to receive a diagnosis than Hispanic children (14.1%).

Language

That same 2013 study also pointed out that children living in households where English is the main language are four times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than children living in households where English is the second language.

Education

According to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of children who receive an ADHD diagnosis is higher in households with parents who have a high school education or less than with parents who have more than a high school education.

Age of birthing parent

The 2013 study also found that children whose birthing parent was older than 38 years at birth were more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than children born to younger birthing parents.

States

According to a 2013 study, the likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis is higher in some states than others. The western part of the United States has lower rates of ADHD. Nevada has the lowest at 5.1%.

The highest rates of ADHD are seen in the northeast. Kentucky has the highest rate at 16.6%.

ADHD symptoms can appear as early as 3 to 6 years old. Inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity are the major symptoms of ADHD.

Common symptoms of ADHD in children and adults include:

  • hyperactivity, which may be physical, verbal, and emotional
  • fidgeting or restlessness
  • disorganization and difficulty prioritizing tasks
  • short attention span
  • trouble multitasking
  • distractibility
  • inability to control anger or frustration
  • impulsivity or recklessness
  • forgetfulness and poor memory
  • difficulty waiting turns
  • frequent shifts in mood

Want to learn more? You can find a more in-depth look at symptoms of ADHD here.

According to the CDC, the average age of diagnosis for ADHD is 7 years old. The more severe the symptoms, the earlier a diagnosis can be made. The average age of diagnosis for severe ADHD is 5 years old.

The CDC states that by 2011, more than 1 in 10 (11%) school-aged children in the United States had received a diagnosis of ADHD. This number accounts for an average annual increase of approximately 5% each year.

ADHD doesn’t just affect children: Approximately 4% of U.S. adults 18 years and up have ADHD, estimates the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Similar to children, adult males (5.4%) are more likely to receive a diagnosis with ADHD than adult females (3.2%), according to the NIMH.

According to the CDC, about 3 in 4 children in the United States who have ADHD are receiving treatment. Treatments for ADHD include behavioral therapies and prescription medication.

AAP Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a combination of behavioral therapy and medication for children ages 6 and older. For children under the age of 6, behavioral therapy is recommended as first-line treatment.

A 2016 national parent survey reported that an estimated 77% of children with ADHD were using medication or behavioral therapies to treat ADHD. Of this total number of children:

  • about 30% were just taking medication
  • about 15% were just getting behavioral treatment
  • about 32% were using both medication and behavioral treatments
  • about 23% weren’t getting treatment at all

You can find out more information about treatment for ADHD here.

Medications

Medications are often used to help improve symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. They work to help improve the ability to concentrate, learn, follow instructions, and interact with others.

According to that national parent survey mentioned above, the number of children taking ADHD medication was highest among 6- to 11-year-olds (69%) and lowest in 2- to 5-year-olds (18%).

The highest use of medication was seen in:

  • boys (8.4%)
  • white children (7.1%)
  • non-Hispanic children (7.0%)
  • households where English was the primary language (7.0%)
  • children with public healthcare coverage (8.1%)
  • children living in the U.S. Midwest (7.3%) and U.S. South (10.4%)

Medication treatment was lowest among children in households where English was the second language (0.9%).

Western states reported the lowest rates of medication use with Nevada being the lowest at 2.0%.

Looking for more? You can take a more in-depth look at the medications used for ADHD here.

Therapy

Several therapy options can help manage symptoms of ADHD. Talk with your doctor to find out whether therapy is the right choice for you or your child.

In 2016, an estimated 47% of children ages 2 to 17 years with ADHD received behavioral treatment.

Of these children, the highest numbers were seen in 2- to 5-year-olds (60%) and the lowest were seen in 6- to 11-year-olds (51%).

About 6 out of 10 children received some type of behavioral therapy or skills training. Of those children:

  • 3 out of 10 had parent-delivered behavior therapy
  • 4 out of 10 had social skills training
  • 3 out of 10 had peer interventions
  • 2 out of 10 had CBT

Want to know more? You can find a deep dive on therapies for ADHD here.

Some people with ADHD have coexisting conditions. According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, more than 60 percent of people with ADHD are estimated to have at least one other coexisting condition.

Symptoms of ADHD can look like symptoms of other conditions. Not getting treatment for these conditions can cause more challenges at school and work.

According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, here are the conditions that can occur with ADHD, along with their estimated rates:

You can find out more about coexisting conditions and ADHD here.

Cost and access are major factors when considering how a diagnosis affects someone. Treatments, whether medications or therapies, can be expensive. Not everyone has access to healthcare.

Planning how you’ll pay for and get these treatments can be stressful on you and your family.

National costs for ADHD

The annual national “excess costs” for ADHD ranged from $143 billion to $266 billion

“Excess costs” include costs for healthcare, income losses, and the impact on educational systems.

Adults with ADHD or adult family members of children with ADHD accounted for more than 70 to 80% of these overall costs. The researchers estimated that excess costs for adults were almost three times higher than for children and adolescents.

For adults, the largest cost category was income and productive losses ($87 billion to $138 billion). For children, the largest cost category was healthcare ($21 billion to $44 billion) and education ($15 billion to $25 billion).

These excess costs don’t include the cost of medication or behavioral treatments, so these numbers are likely even higher than reported.

If you think you or a loved one have ADHD, you’ve already accomplished your first step: educating yourself about the condition.

Remember, ADHD can be successfully managed. Talk with your doctor to get an evaluation.

Your doctor can help you manage your symptoms and learn to live well with ADHD.