Prevalence of ADHD among adults
Last updated 4 March 2018 - see all updates
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1. Main facts and figures
there were no meaningful differences identified between ethnic groups in the percentage of people aged 16 years and over who screened positive for ADHD, so these figures should not be used as evidence of real differences in the population as a whole
although the table shows differences between groups for the percentage screening positive for ADHD, sample sizes were too small to draw reliable conclusions
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about detailed ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following broad groups, based on the ONS harmonised ethnic group questions for use on national surveys.
- Asian/Asian British
- Black/Black British
- Mixed/Multiple and Other ethnicities
- White British
- Other White
2. Positive screenings for ADHD in adults
Summary of Prevalence of ADHD among adults Positive screenings for ADHD in adults Summary
Interviewers for the APMS asked participants questions face-to-face using the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS), which uses 6 questions to assess the ADHD characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity during the 6 months prior to interview. A positive screen for ADHD was made based on answers to 4 or more questions indicating these characteristics.
Each survey involved interviewing a large stratified probability sample of the general population, covering people living in private households. The full adult age range was covered, with the youngest participants aged 16 and the oldest over 100.
While a positive screen for ADHD isn’t a diagnosis, it does suggest they probably have ADHD and warrant a clinical assessment. The ‘Methods’ chapter of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 (PDF opens in a new window or tab) sets out the specific methodology of the ASRS.
The prevalence of ADHD is determined here by dividing the number of respondents with a score of 4 or more on the ASRS by the total number of respondents.
The two-phase survey design involved an initial interview with the whole sample, followed up with a structured assessment carried out by clinically trained interviewers with a subset of participants. People were assessed or screened for a range of different types of mental disorder, from common conditions like depression and anxiety disorder through to less common neurological and mental conditions such as psychotic disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The use of a survey to assess mental health conditions is not as reliable as a diagnosis made using a clinical interview. The assessments used have been validated, however, and are among the best available.
The survey covers people who live in private households. It doesn’t include those who live in institutional settings (such as hospitals or prisons) or in temporary housing (such as hostels or bed and breakfasts) or those who sleep rough. People living in such settings are likely to have worse mental health than those living in private households (Gill et al. 1996; cited in APMS 2014).
Where a selected participant could not take part in a long interview due to a physical or mental health condition, some information about this was recorded by the interviewer on the doorstep. This information may be biased due to it having been collected from another household member.
Socially undesirable or stigmatised feelings and behaviours may be underreported. While this is a risk for any study based on self-report data, the study goes some way to minimising this by collecting particularly sensitive information in a self-completion format.
Some people selected for the survey could not be contacted or refused to take part. The achieved response rate (57%) is in line with that of similar surveys (Barnes et al. 2010; cited in APMS 2014). Weighting helps take account of those who were selected for the survey but didn’t take part.
Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy. For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.
More detailed information on the weighting used here can be found on page 24 of the ‘Methods’ chapter of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 (PDF opens in a new window or tab).
The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section.
11% of White British men surveyed screened positive for ADHD. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of White British men in England who are likely to have ADHD. Because the APMS results are based on a random sample of adults aged 16 or older, however, it's impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 9.5% and 12.7% of all White British men in England have ADHD. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the lower and upper bounds of the confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer men from the Black/Black British ethnic group were sampled for this survey than British White men, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 2.0% and 10.9%.
Suppression rules and disclosure control
Risk to disclosure has been accounted for with limitations of the level of disaggregation, size of category groupings, and the maintaining of large underlying populations for analysis. No further suppression or other disclosure control has been applied.
Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.
Further technical information
4. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Every 7 years (further publications dependent on further surveys being commissioned)
Purpose of data source
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on the prevalence of treated and untreated psychiatric disorders in English adults aged 16 and over.
5. Download the data
The percentage of adults who screened positive for ADHD in the six months prior to the survey in England 2014, by broad ethnic group and sex with 95% confidence intervals of the estimates. In this analysis a score of four or more was taken to be a positive screen for ADHD. Additionally, estimates of the percentage of adults with a score of six have been provided. These values do not have associated confidence intervals.