ADHD and later-life labor market outcomes in the United States

Link to Publication (External Site)

People at genetic risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) suffer negative effects on their employment, individual income and household wealth. But these can probably be mitigated by higher educational attainment, this paper finds.

The researchers looked at a sample of approximately 9,000 individuals aged 50-65 who took part in the American Health and Retirement study. They considered whether a genetic propensity to ADHD was associated with employment, individual income and household wealth – regardless of whether the individual had been diagnosed with the condition. They also looked at whether these individuals were more likely to be receiving disability benefit, unemployment benefit or other kinds of welfare support such as veterans’ benefits or food stamps.

The results suggest that those at genetic risk of ADHD are less likely to be employed than others, earn less and live in lower-income households. They are also more likely to receive disability, unemployment and other benefits. These effects are very similar in size among males and females.

The research concludes that while genetic testing can identify ‘at risk’ children at an early stage and can open the door to early intervention, the positive and negative consequences of such an approach need to be weighed very carefully. On the one hand, it could allow for detailed planning and support from a very early age. But on the other, it could have serious negative consequences – those individuals might be unable to get health insurance, for example. Many of those with genetic risk factors would never develop the condition, which is not solely determined by genes.

The study highlights a wider issue – the utmost care should be taken over the ethical desirability of genetic screening for ADHD.