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Adult ADHD a huge drain on Canada’s economy: report

Brenda Bouw
Adult ADHD a huge drain on Canada’s economy: report
Adult ADHD a huge drain on Canada’s economy: report

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has huge impact on productivity in Canada and governments need to pay closer attention to the significant negative economic impact, a new study suggests.

Canada loses an estimated $6 billion to $11 billion each year through loss of workplace productivity linked to the disorder, according to research from the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC).

“Some adults with ADHD are high functioning and financially successful. However, in general, untreated ADHD impedes the attainment of human and social capital, resulting in major socioeconomic costs for the Canadian government,” the report says.

The study puts the cost of illness from the disorder at more than $7 billion, more than major depressive disorders, which are also an issue in Canadian society, and cites a correlation to increased health care costs.

“The impact of ADHD on Canadian social services continues to escalate,” says the paper released as part of ADHD Awareness Week.

People with ADHD are more likely to get a job without the proper skills, have longer periods of unemployment, change jobs more often and earn less money throughout their career.

“Many drift from one lower-paying job to another, have a higher than average dependency on social welfare, and subsequently contribute less taxes,” the report states. “The disorder impacts Canadian society well beyond its effect on individuals and their families.”

That includes added costs in health care as well as education and justice systems. For instance, it cites studies in Canada, the U.S. and parts of Europe that show up to two-thirds of young offenders were shown to test positive when screened for childhood ADHD. Another U.S. study says at least 25 per cent of the American prison population has the disorder.

The CADDAC says the problem stems from a lack of awareness and treatment, starting in young people. That can lead to higher high-school dropout rates, which begins the downward spiral for lost productivity. It cites another U.S. study that says childhood ADHD reduces employment for young adults by up to 14 per cent, cuts earnings by 33 per cent and increases likelihood of the person needing social assistance by 15 per cent.

A lack of access to treatment was also cited as an issue for 79 per cent of ADHD sufferers in another recent study done by CADDAC in 2012. Among those respondents, 67 per cent reported lower job productivity, 50 per cent said they couldn’t get promoted and 32 per cent had trouble keeping a job.

Awareness is also a problem. The report shows 36 per cent of Canadians falsely believe that children outgrow ADHD and only 40 per cent think a person with the disorder can lead a normal life with the appropriate support.

The CADDAC says up to 90 per cent of adults with the disorder remain untreated.

"What we need to know is that the continued misinformation and undeserved stigma that haunts ADHD increases the continuing costs that under diagnosis and under treatment fuel," says CADDAC president Heidi Bernhardt.

The organization is calling on health ministries across Canada to recognize ADHD as a health risk and offer more training around recognizing and treating the disorder, which it says affects more than one million Canadians.