The Prevalence and persistence of ADHD have not been described in young Australian adults and few studies have examined how conduct problems (CP) are associated with ADHD for this age group. We estimate lifetime and adult prevalence and persistence rates for three categories of ADHD for 3795 Australian adults, and indicate how career, health and childhood risk factors differ for people with ADHD symptoms and ADHD symptoms plus CP.
Trained interviewers collected participant experience of ADHD, CP, education, employment, childhood experience, relationship and health variables. Three diagnostic definitions of ADHD used were
Prevalence rates in adulthood were 1.1%, 2.3% and 2.7% for each categorization respectively. Persistence of ADHD from childhood averaged across gender was 55.3% for full criteria, 50.3% with no age criterion and 40.2% for problem symptoms. ADHD symptoms were associated with parental conflict, poor health, being sexually assaulted during childhood, lower education, income loss and higher unemployment. The lifetime prevalence of conduct problems for adults with ADHD was 57.8% and 6.9% for adults without ADHD. The greatest disadvantage was experienced by participants with ADHD plus CP.
The persistence of ADHD into adulthood was greatest for participants meeting full diagnostic criteria and inattention was associated with the greatest loss of income and disadvantage. The disadvantage associated with conduct problems differed in severity and was relevant for a high proportion of adults with ADHD. Women but not men with ADHD reported more childhood adversity, possibly indicating varied etiology and treatment needs. The impact and treatment needs of adults with ADHD and CP and the report of sexual assault during childhood by women and men with ADHD also deserve further study.