The descriptive epidemiology of DSM-IV Adult ADHD in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys

  • John FayyadEmail author
  • Nancy A. Sampson
  • Irving Hwang
  • Tomasz Adamowski
  • Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola
  • Ali Al-Hamzawi
  • Laura H. S. G. Andrade
  • Guilherme Borges
  • Giovanni de Girolamo
  • Silvia Florescu
  • Oye Gureje
  • Josep Maria Haro
  • Chiyi Hu
  • Elie G. Karam
  • Sing Lee
  • Fernando Navarro-Mateu
  • Siobhan O’Neill
  • Beth-Ellen Pennell
  • Marina Piazza
  • José Posada-Villa
  • Margreet ten Have
  • Yolanda Torres
  • Miguel Xavier
  • Alan M. Zaslavsky
  • Ronald C. Kessler
  • on behalf of the WHO World Mental Health Survey Collaborators
Original Article


We previously reported on the cross-national epidemiology of ADHD from the first 10 countries in the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys. The current report expands those previous findings to the 20 nationally or regionally representative WMH surveys that have now collected data on adult ADHD. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) was administered to 26,744 respondents in these surveys in high-, upper-middle-, and low-/lower-middle-income countries (68.5% mean response rate). Current DSM-IV/CIDI adult ADHD prevalence averaged 2.8% across surveys and was higher in high (3.6%)- and upper-middle (3.0%)- than low-/lower-middle (1.4%)-income countries. Conditional prevalence of current ADHD averaged 57.0% among childhood cases and 41.1% among childhood subthreshold cases. Adult ADHD was significantly related to being male, previously married, and low education. Adult ADHD was highly comorbid with DSM-IV/CIDI anxiety, mood, behavior, and substance disorders and significantly associated with role impairments (days out of role, impaired cognition, and social interactions) when controlling for comorbidities. Treatment seeking was low in all countries and targeted largely to comorbid conditions rather than to ADHD. These results show that adult ADHD is prevalent, seriously impairing, and highly comorbid but vastly under-recognized and undertreated across countries and cultures.


ADHD Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Comorbidity Disability epidemiology Impairment Prevalence Treatment 


Author contributions

JF and RCK jointly conceived of the analyses and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. AZ and RCK designed the statistical analysis plan. NS directed the statistical analysis. IH carried out the analyses. All coauthors participated in interpretation of results and revisions.

The World Health Organization World Mental Health Survey collaborators

Tomasz Adamowski, PhD, MD, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD, Ali Al-Hamzawi, MD, Mohammad Al-Kaisy, MD, Abdullah Al Subaie, MBBS, FRCP, Jordi Alonso, MD, PhD, Yasmin Altwaijri, MS, PhD, Laura Helena Andrade, MD, PhD, Lukoye Atwoli, MD, Randy P. Auerbach, PhD, William G. Axinn, PhD, Corina Benjet, PhD, Guilherme Borges, ScD, Robert M. Bossarte, PhD, Evelyn J. Bromet, PhD, Ronny Bruffaerts, PhD, Brendan Bunting, PhD, Ernesto Caffo, MD, Jose Miguel Caldas de Almeida, MD, PhD, Graca Cardoso, MD, PhD, Alfredo H. Cia, MD, Stephanie Chardoul, Somnath Chatterji, MD, Alexandre Chiavegatto Filho, PhD, Pim Cuijpers, PhD, Louisa Degenhardt, PhD, Giovanni de Girolamo, MD, Ron de Graaf, MS, PhD, Peter de Jonge, PhD, Koen Demyttenaere, MD, PhD, David D. Ebert, PhD, Sara Evans-Lacko, PhD, John Fayyad, MD, Fabian Fiestas, MD, PhD, Silvia Florescu, MD, PhD, Barbara Forresi, PhD, Sandro Galea, DrPH, MD, MPH, Laura Germine, PhD, Stephen E. Gilman, ScD, Dirgha J. Ghimire, PhD, Meyer D. Glantz, PhD, Oye Gureje, PhD, DSc, FRCPsych, Josep Maria Haro, MD, MPH, PhD, Yanling He, MD, Hristo Hinkov, MD, Chi-yi Hu, PhD, MD, Yueqin Huang, MD, MPH, PhD, Aimee Nasser Karam, PhD, Elie G. Karam, MD, Norito Kawakami, MD, DMSc, Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, Andrzej Kiejna, MD, PhD, Karestan C. Koenen, PhD, Viviane Kovess-Masfety, MSc, MD, PhD, Luise Lago, PhD, Carmen Lara, MD, PhD, Sing Lee, PhD, Jean-Pierre Lepine, MD, Itzhak Levav, MD, Daphna Levinson, PhD, Zhaorui Liu, MD, MPH, Silvia S. Martins, MD, PhD, Herbert Matschinger, PhD, John J. McGrath, PhD, Katie A. McLaughlin, PhD, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, PhD, Zeina Mneimneh, PhD, MPH, Jacek Moskalewicz, DrPH, Samuel D. Murphy, DrPH, Fernando Navarro-Mateu, MD, PhD, Matthew K. Nock, PhD, Siobhan O’Neill, PhD, Mark Oakley-Browne, MB, ChB, PhD, J. Hans Ormel, PhD, Beth-Ellen Pennell, MA, Marina Piazza, MPH, ScD, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PhD, Patryk Piotrowski, MD, PhD, Jose Posada-Villa, MD, Ayelet M. Ruscio, PhD, Kate M. Scott, PhD, Vicki Shahly, PhD, Derrick Silove, PhD, Tim Slade, PhD, Jordan W. Smoller, ScD, MD, Juan Carlos Stagnaro, MD, PhD, Dan J. Stein, MBA, MSc, PhD, Amy E. Street, PhD, Hisateru Tachimori, PhD, Nezar Taib, MS, Margreet ten Have, PhD, Graham Thornicroft, PhD, Yolanda Torres, MPH, Maria Carmen Viana, MD, PhD, Gemma Vilagut, MS, Elisabeth Wells, PhD, David R. Williams, MPH, PhD, Michelle A. Williams, ScD, Bogdan Wojtyniak, ScD, Alan M. Zaslavsky, PhD.


This work was carried out in conjunction with the World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative which is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; R01 MH070884), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, the US Public Health Service (R13-MH066849, R01-MH069864, and R01 DA016558), the Fogarty International Center (FIRCA R03-TW006481), the Pan American Health Organization, Eli Lilly and Company, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. We thank the staff of the WMH Data Collection and Data Analysis Coordination Centres for assistance with instrumentation, fieldwork, and consultation on data analysis. None of the funders had any role in the design, analysis, interpretation of results, or preparation of this paper. A complete list of all within-country and cross-national WMH publications can be found at The Colombian National Study of Mental Health (NSMH) is supported by the Ministry of Social Protection. The Mental Health Study Medellín–Colombia was carried out and supported jointly by the Center for Excellence on Research in Mental Health (CES University) and the Secretary of Health of Medellín. The ESEMeD project is funded by the European Commission (Contracts QLG5-1999-01042; SANCO 2004123, and EAHC 20081308), the Piedmont Region (Italy)), Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain (FIS 00/0028), Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología, Spain (SAF 2000-158-CE), Departament de Salut, Generalitat de Catalunya, Spain, Instituto de Salud Carlos III (CIBER CB06/02/0046, RETICS RD06/0011 REM-TAP), and other local agencies and by an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. Implementation of the Iraq Mental Health Survey (IMHS) and data entry were carried out by the staff of the Iraqi MOH and MOP with direct support from the Iraqi IMHS team with funding from both the Japanese and European Funds through United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund (UNDG ITF). The Lebanese National Mental Health Survey (LEBANON) is supported by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, the WHO (Lebanon), National Institute of Health / Fogarty International Center (R03 TW006481-01), Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, anonymous private donations to IDRAAC, Lebanon, and unrestricted grants from AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Janssen-Cilag, Lundbeck, Novartis, and Servier. The Mexican National Comorbidity Survey (MNCS) is supported by The National Institute of Psychiatry Ramon de la Fuente (INPRFMDIES 4280) and by the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACyT-G30544-H), with supplemental support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The Northern Ireland Study of Mental Health was funded by the Health & Social Care Research & Development Division of the Public Health Agency. The Peruvian World Mental Health Study was funded by the National Institute of Health of the Ministry of Health of Peru. The Polish project Epidemiology of Mental Health and Access to Care – EZOP Project (PL 0256) was supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through funding from the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. EZOP project was co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Health. The Portuguese Mental Health Study was carried out by the Department of Mental Health, Faculty of Medical Sciences, NOVA University of Lisbon, with collaboration of the Portuguese Catholic University, and was funded by Champalimaud Foundation, Gulbenkian Foundation, Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and Ministry of Health. The Romania WMH study projects “Policies in Mental Health Area” and “National Study regarding Mental Health and Services Use” were carried out by National School of Public Health & Health Services Management (former National Institute for Research & Development in Health, present National School of Public Health, Management & Professional Development, Bucharest), with technical support of Metro Media Transilvania, the National Institute of Statistics – National Centre for Training in Statistics, SC. Cheyenne Services SRL, Statistics Netherlands and were funded by Ministry of Public Health (former and present Ministry of Health) with supplemental support of Eli Lilly Romania SRL. The Psychiatric Enquiry to General Population in Southeast Spain–Murcia (PEGASUS-Murcia) Project has been financed by the Regional Health Authorities of Murcia (Servicio Murciano de Salud and Consejería de Sanidad y Política Social) and Fundación para la Formación e Investigación Sanitarias (FFIS) of Murcia. The Chinese World Mental Health Survey Initiative is supported by the Pfizer Foundation. The Shenzhen Mental Health Survey is supported by the Shenzhen Bureau of Health and the Shenzhen Bureau of Science, Technology, and Information. The São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey is supported by the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Thematic Project Grant 03/00204-3. The US National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH60220) with supplemental support from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; Grant 044708), and the John W. Alden Trust.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Kessler received support for his epidemiological studies from Sanofi Aventis, was a consultant for Johnson & Johnson Wellness and Prevention, and served on an advisory board for the Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. Lake Nona Life Project. Kessler is a co-owner of DataStat, Inc., a market research firm that carries out healthcare research. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Fayyad
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nancy A. Sampson
    • 2
  • Irving Hwang
    • 2
  • Tomasz Adamowski
    • 3
  • Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola
    • 4
  • Ali Al-Hamzawi
    • 5
  • Laura H. S. G. Andrade
    • 6
  • Guilherme Borges
    • 7
  • Giovanni de Girolamo
    • 8
  • Silvia Florescu
    • 9
  • Oye Gureje
    • 10
  • Josep Maria Haro
    • 11
  • Chiyi Hu
    • 12
    • 13
  • Elie G. Karam
    • 1
    • 14
    • 15
  • Sing Lee
    • 16
  • Fernando Navarro-Mateu
    • 17
  • Siobhan O’Neill
    • 18
  • Beth-Ellen Pennell
    • 19
  • Marina Piazza
    • 20
    • 21
  • José Posada-Villa
    • 22
  • Margreet ten Have
    • 23
  • Yolanda Torres
    • 24
  • Miguel Xavier
    • 25
  • Alan M. Zaslavsky
    • 2
  • Ronald C. Kessler
    • 2
  • on behalf of the WHO World Mental Health Survey Collaborators
  1. 1.Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC)BeirutLebanon
  2. 2.Department of Health Care PolicyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Nervous System Diseases, Faculty of Health ScienceMedical University of WroclawWroclawPoland
  4. 4.Center for Reducing Health DisparitiesUC Davis Health SystemSacramentoUSA
  5. 5.College of MedicineAl-Qadisiya UniversityDiwaniya GovernorateIraq
  6. 6.Section of Psychiatric Epidemiology-LIM 23, Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of São Paulo Medical SchoolSão PauloBrazil
  7. 7.Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatria Ramon de la Fuente MuñizMexicoMexico
  8. 8.IRCCS St John of God Clinical Research Centre/IRCCS Centro S. Giovanni di Dio FatebenefratelliBresciaItaly
  9. 9.National School of Public Health, Management and Professional DevelopmentBucharestRomania
  10. 10.Department of PsychiatryUniversity College HospitalIbadanNigeria
  11. 11.Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, CIBERSAMUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  12. 12.Shenzhen Institute of Mental HealthShenzhenChina
  13. 13.Shenzhen Kangning HospitalShenzhenChina
  14. 14.Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Faculty of MedicineBalamand UniversityBeirutLebanon
  15. 15.Department of Psychiatry and Clinical PsychologySt George Hospital University Medical CenterBeirutLebanon
  16. 16.Department of PsychiatryChinese University of Hong KongTai PoHong Kong
  17. 17.IMIB-Arrixaca, CIBERESP-Murcia, Subdirección General de Salud Mental y Asistencia PsiquiátricaServicio Murciano de SaludMurciaSpain
  18. 18.School of PsychologyUniversity of UlsterLondonderryUK
  19. 19.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  20. 20.National Institute of HealthLimaPeru
  21. 21.Universidad Peruana Cayetano HerediaLimaPeru
  22. 22.El Bosque UniversityBogotaColombia
  23. 23.Trimbos-Instituut, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and AddictionUtrechtNetherlands
  24. 24.Center for Excellence on Research in Mental HealthCES UniversityMedellinColombia
  25. 25.Chronic Diseases Research Center (CEDOC) and Department of Mental Health, Faculdade de Ciências MédicasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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