The Hidden Costs of ADHD

Recent studies have begun to examine the economic impact on families raising a child with ADHD. Research conducted at Florida International University estimated the additional cost – beyond medication and therapy – to U.S. families of raising an ADHD child at $5.8 annually, or about 5 times more than for raising a child without ADHD.

The study took into consideration the financial impact of the child’s social, behavioral and academic difficulties. It broke the expenses into two categories – direct and indirect costs. Participants were parents of 86 children, 50 of whom were diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 4 and 6, and 36 of whom did not have a diagnosis of ADHD. These children and their families were followed annually for many years. When the youth were 16-18 years old, estimates of costs that families experienced during their child’s development were estimated.

Direct costs included those connected to behavioral / educational challenges, not including treatment costs such as medication and  therapy costs. Children with ADHD often have academic and behavioral problems in school that lead to additional costs for families, including:

  • Private tutoring
  • Specialized coaching
  • Summer classes
  • Computer software
  • Accidents and injury – car accidents and associated court costs for teens
  • Other learning services beyond those provided by the education system

In addition, children with ADHD may also frequently lose personal belongings and school supplies requiring replacement, experience dismissal from extracurricular activities, and miss lessons or extracurricular activities after parents have already paid fees or purchased equipment.

Indirect costs included those related to caregiver strain such as:

  • Income loss due to being fired and changed job responsibilities
  • Income loss from missed work or having to reduce workload
  • Additional childcare expenses
  • Treatment for the parent’s mental health concerns

The study found that, on average, that families of kids with ADHD spent $15,036 per child—not including treatment—and families of kids without ADHD spent $2,848 over the course of a child’s development. That amounts to about $1,000 per year of additional cost, not including medication and therapy. (Earlier studies have estimated the average cost of treatment at $1,574 annually.)

William Pelham, Jr., director of FIU’s Center for Children and Families believes this information is important to better understand the challenges that many families experience and identify supports that are needed. He said, “ADHD is the most common childhood mental health problem, which if left untreated, allows for children with mental health issues to grow into adults with more prevalent, complex and costly problems that affect the whole family. The most important thing parents of children with ADHD can do is get help as early as possible to learn effective behavioral strategies that will help to offset some of these costs and prevent more serious issues in adulthood.”

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