Adult Outcome of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Controlled 16-Year Follow-Up Study [CME]




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Objective: To estimate the risks for psychopathology and functional impairments in adulthood among a longitudinal sample of youth with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosed in childhood.

Method: This was a case-controlled, 16-year (15–19 years) prospective follow-up study of ADHD. 140 boys with and 120 without DSM-III-R ADHD were recruited from pediatric and psychiatric settings. The main outcome measures were structured diagnostic interviews and measures of psychosocial, educational, and neuropsychological functioning. Data were collected from 1988 to 2006.

Results: At the 16-year follow-up, subjects with ADHD continued to significantly differ from controls in lifetime rates of antisocial, mood, anxiety, and addictive disorders, but with the exception of a higher interval prevalence of anxiety disorders (20% vs 8%; z = 2.32, P = .02) and smoking dependence (27% vs 11%; z = 2.30, P = .02), the incidence of individual disorders in the 6-year interval between the current and prior follow-up did not differ significantly from controls. At follow-up, the ADHD subjects compared with controls were significantly (P < .05) more impaired in psychosocial, educational, and neuropsychological functioning, differences that could not be accounted for by other active psychopathology.

Conclusions: These long-term prospective findings provide further evidence for the high morbidity associated with ADHD across the life cycle, stressing the importance of early recognition of this disorder for prevention and early intervention strategies. These findings also indicate that, in adulthood, ADHD confers significant risks for impairment that cannot be accounted for by other psychopathology.

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(7):941–950

Submitted: November 10, 2011; accepted January 25, 2012(doi:10.4088/JCP.11m07529).

Corresponding author: Joseph Biederman, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St, Yawkey 6A, Boston, MA 02114 (

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(7):941-950