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
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
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
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
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