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$20 billion: the high cost of ADHD for Australia

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects more than 800,000 Australians. A new Deloitte Access Economics report – The Social and Economic Costs of ADHD in Australia – released at the 3rd annual conference of the Australian ADHD Professionals Association in Brisbane, Australia, estimates that the social and economic impacts of the neurodevelopmental disorder are around $20 billion per year.

Produced for AADPA, the report has found ADHD imposes significant economic and wellbeing costs on the Australian population. Key findings include:

ADHD Effects All Ages

ADHD affects approximately 281,200 children and adolescents (0-19 years old) and 533,300 adults in Australia (20+ years old).

Significant Financial Impact

The total cost of ADHD in Australia is estimated to be $20.42 billion, which includes financial costs of $12.83 billion and wellbeing losses of $7.59 billion

Loss Of Productivity Costs

Productivity costs make up 81% of total financial costs, followed by deadweight losses (11%), health system costs (6%), and other costs.

ADHD can have lifelong impacts, including on educational achievement, occupational attainment, and the increased likelihood of crime and interaction with the criminal justice system.

These impacts place significant pressure on Australian society and its institutions. As such, there is a continued need to raise awareness of the socioeconomic burden of ADHD in Australia and educate and inform key stakeholders including individuals, education systems, workplaces, and society in an attempt to reduce the burden and lifelong impact that ADHD may have.

There are likely substantial opportunities for targeted policy interventions to help mitigate this costly condition. AADPA President, Professor Mark Bellgrove, said: “Characterised by symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and in some cases excessive levels of hyperactivity, ADHD is known to most of us, but also misunderstood on multiple levels.”

Having a better understanding of these costs can help efforts to reduce these social and financial burdens, on society, as well as on individuals and their families and communities.

Presenting the findings from the report at AADPA’s recent Conference, Professor Dave Coghill, AADPA Vice President and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, said the new analysis would help inform a better understanding of the condition’s impact and drive new research to help reduce the burden and lifelong impacts that ADHD can impose.

“We need new research across a range of sectors to deliver high quality interventions that reduce the impact of ADHD on families, their children, and adults living with ADHD.  We certainly believe there are real opportunities for targeted policy interventions to help mitigate this costly condition on many fronts.”

Deloitte Access Economics Lead Partner, Health Economics and Social Policy, and the report’s principal author, Lynne Pezzullo, said:

At over $20 billion in costs including lower productivity, health and education system costs, and reduced quality of life, the impact of ADHD is significant.

“ADHD can impact an individual’s ability to function and engage in work or schooling, and can mean they are less likely to be employed compared to their peers. The productivity losses for individuals and their families cost Australia more than $10 billion in 2019. ADHD also affects the families of children living with the condition, and it is common for parents to report a change in responsibilities at work.”

While there is no single known cause, the syndrome arises from an interaction of genetic, social and environmental factors. Although it’s often a lifelong condition, early diagnosis and quality treatment improves individual outcomes significantly and educating key stakeholders, from individuals and their families and workplaces, to policy makers across health, education and criminal justice systems is key.

Despite uncertainty around the causes of ADHD, it is clear that in Australia today, the social and economic cost of the condition is substantial. What we haven’t had, until now, is a report driven by high quality data that quantifies these impacts.