The prevalence and incidence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have increased substantially among children and adolescents over the past decade; however, little is known regarding trends in adult populations.
The objective of this study was to explore trends in the prevalence, incidence, and correlates of adult ADHD in a national sample of veterans receiving care at Veteran Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics.
A retrospective design was used to examine ADHD diagnosed in all VA primary care (PC) and mental health clinics (MHCs) from fiscal years (FYs) 2009 to 2016. Age-adjusted prevalence and incidence were calculated using direct standardization, and Poisson regressions modeled differences in trends between demographic groups.
All veterans with VA PC or MHC visits during the observation period.
ADHD incidence and prevalence, psychiatric comorbidity, neuropsychological evaluation.
An annual average of 5.09 million (range: 4.63–5.42 million) VA patients attended a PC or MHC appointment between FY09 and FY16. During this period, age-adjusted annual prevalence increased 258% from 0.23% to 0.84% and incidence increased 240% from 0.14% to 0.48%. Black veterans and older veterans had the lowest prevalence and incidence across all years. Increases in prevalence and incidence occurred across all demographic subgroups. The proportion of patients who had a neuropsychological evaluation within 6 months before or after a new ADHD diagnosis decreased from 12.6% to 10.8% [χ2(1)=16.59, P<0.001].
Overall increases and demographic differences in adult veterans diagnosed with ADHD suggest a growing need to establish the reliability of diagnostic practices to ensure appropriate and equitable care.