By Alan Mozes, HealthDay Reporter
posted: 27 May 2008 05:12 pm ET
(HealthDay News) -- Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) miss, on average, more than three weeks a year in workplace productivity, according to a new global reckoning of the problem.
Altogether, between 3 percent and 4 percent of adults worldwide have ADHD, according to survey data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Researchers say the condition can cause a serious loss of concentration at work due to chronic hyperactivity, forgetfulness and impulsiveness.
But many adult workers with ADHD may not know they have a problem, the team noted.
"While surveying mental disorders around the world, we've interviewed close to 200,000 people in almost 30 countries, and we're discovering that an enormous number of adult workers -- more than 3 percent on average -- have untreated adult ADHD," said study co-author Ron Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Kessler is also the director of the WHO's World Mental Health Survey Consortium, which is based at Harvard.
"From a societal point of view, it's a pretty big deal, because ADHD affects work performance even more than depression does," he added. "It's more persistent and severe than many mental disorders, and it results in more sick days, more accidents, and more problems interacting with colleagues. So given that employers are increasingly thinking about health care costs in terms of investment opportunities, we think it's useful to point out that it's probably a very smart and profitable business move for employers to screen their workers for ADHD and get them into treatment."
Results of the WHO survey are being published Tuesday in the online edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Kessler and his colleagues conducted country-by-country ADHD diagnostic assessments on more than 7,000 employed and self-employed workers between the ages of 18 and 44.
The ADHD screenings were held in Belgium, Columbia, France, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States. All the participants were also asked to describe their work performance over the prior month.
An average of 3.5 percent of those interviewed had ADHD, a condition whose initial onset typically occurs in childhood. Among Americans, the rate rose to 4.5 percent, Kessler noted.
ADHD was more common among men than women, more common in developed than developing countries (such as Mexico, Lebanon, and Columbia), and more common among blue-collar workers than white-collar professionals. Age did not appear to be associated with ADHD risk.
Very few of the diagnosed patients said they had received any treatment for ADHD in the prior year. In fact, only some of the Dutch and American patients indicated having received any treatment for ADHD, and in those countries only about 3 percent and 13 percent of the Dutch and U.S. workers, respectively, reported any treatment history.
Those diagnosed with ADHD spent more than 22 fewer days per year working compared with non-ADHD workers. This included an average of more than eight days during which ADHD employees said they simply could not carry out their routine tasks; almost 22 days with reduced productivity; and nearly 14 days of reduced quality in the work they produced.
"The fact is that adult ADHD hasn't been on people's radar screens," said Kessler. "The feeling was that somehow magically when kids with ADHD grow up they grow out of it. But this survey shows that this is not the case."
Dr. David W. Goodman, director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center in Luthersville, Md., agreed that ADHD is an "under-diagnosed and under-recognized psychiatric condition that causes a tremendous amount of disability in the work environment."
And while he supports the idea of screening workers for ADHD, Goodman, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, worries that "identifying workers with ADHD raises the possibility for discrimination."
He also wondered whether people who are diagnosed with the condition, especially in the developing world, would have doctors available to help them.
For more on ADHD and the workplace, visit the U.S. National Resource Center on ADHD._
Three weeks, hell! I'm way beyond three weeks, more like three months
I don't like the idea of testing people, my boss would have never hired me... except he thinks ADHD is a liberal myth.
This is just an anecdotal train of thought and has no merit beyond that but what the article fails to mention is that a lot of people with ADHD are also capable of bringing an astounding amount of creativity with them. Yes, I may cost my employer in unproductive time but the creativity I have brought to his firm has made it grow exponentially. I, in my unorthodox manner, have taken his business from designing run of the mill schools and hospitals to mega casinos. That's all my creativity that's aloud that.
My boss is the type who sits down with pen and paper and draws, and draws, and draws till he has something that will work. What he does is usually... well, boring. It's functional, but boring. He has no unproductive time but so what, if the end result is staid and stale.
He's always pissed at me because I work completely differently. In all honesty I fuck off. I don't do anything till inspiration strikes, then I'm off like a flash. The thing is though I have mountains of unproductive time. Just the amount I'm on A2A is testament to that fact. However what I deliver is what has aloud the business to grow.
Several months ago I got my ass ate out (and not in the good way) for not sitting down with a piece of paper and working out a design for this bar. I was "wasting time we didn't have", which was true. Most of time I spent on the net looking at A2A, science news sites, Foreign Policy sites, porn and god knows what else. However in the end I came up with fabulous design that the owner liked so well they decided they wanted to design the whole building around this bar and make it the focal point of the whole property. The client was blown over... shouldn't that count for something?
I understand my bosses resentment at the fact he toiled away for weeks on a proposal that the client just, literally, threw on the floor and then decided to redesign the whole building around my two days worth of sketches but come on...
It seems science in this instance, with regard to the article, just ignores creativity for the sake of productivity. What great good is productivity without some measure of incite and new ideas. It's no different for the blue collar worker either. While he's being unproductive and getting distracted that's more than likely the time he may see a problem with the way his company does things and, if aloud, he may suggest a change that could save or make untold amounts.
It's in times away from toil that inspiration and incite are found. I think that fact is lost in the statistical analysis of production and the type of thought this article represents and promotes does nothing but further quell the quality of human kinds creative anima.