News Archive

ADHD Is a Mistaken and Overlooked Psychiatric Disorder in the Aging Population

A review by Goodman et al published online December 16, 2015, in Drugs and Aging is the first review of English published worldwide research on ADHD in adults over age 50 and highlights the prevalence rate at ~3%.

With this age population in the United States expected to rise from 43.1 million to 88.5 million by 2050, there will be a subset of older adults with cognitive complaints from ADHD who will be misdiagnosed and mistreated. No physician training has focused on ADHD persisting into the geriatric years.

Despite decades of research on ADHD children and adults, the Goodman review draws attention to the paucity of research and the need to learn how persistent ADHD effects the functioning and quality of life of older adults. Depression and anxiety are often seen at higher rates in older adults with untreated ADHD.

"The next clinical frontier in ADHD diagnosis and treatment will be older adults. Unfortunately, older adults with ADHD were rarely diagnosed as children since people didn't considered it in the 1950s and 60s," says David W. Goodman, MD, FAPA, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland. "Regardless of age, people are relieved to hear they have a disorder whose treatment can improve daily living and satisfaction. They learn it is what they have [disorder] not who they are as a person."

The estimated number of people with ADHD over age 50 is 1.2 million that will grow to 2.5 million in 2050. In one study of ADHD adults aged 60 to 77 years, the mean age of ADHD diagnosis was 57 years. A survey of memory clinics demonstrated that only one in five are regularly screening for ADHD in older adults, thereby missing this treatable disorder. Older people concerned about cognitive problems may not be adequately evaluated for possible ADHD and may be misdiagnosed and mistreated.

In another study, 63% of older adults diagnosed with ADHD reported being on medication while 23% had not been on medication. The ADHD adults on medication reported a better ability to manage daily demands than those ADHD adults not on medication. The current research suggests that effective treatment improves daily functioning and quality of life.

We want to encourage further research into nuanced evaluations and effective treatments specific for this age population. The presence of medical illnesses and medication add a layer of complexity to be overcome by well-trained physicians and mental health professional. Heightened awareness by the public will drive the increased demand for sophisticated evaluations and individualized treatment approaches. The Goodman literature review publication will start this discussion.

Source: PR Newswire Association