ADHD often persists beyond childhood, but few studies have investigated the transition from paediatric to adult clinical services. Disconcertingly, a study in the UK has shown that despite having enduring symptoms, many youths with ADHD are not offered assistance with the transition to adult care, and are not undergoing treatment as a result.
Young people diagnosed with ADHD as children (n=91; aged 14–24 years) from the UK subset of the International Multicenter ADHD Genetics project were evaluated over 3 years using face-to-face interviews with children and parents, and self-report questionnaires to assess:
- Ongoing symptoms and treatment needs
- Factors correlating with contact with clinical services
- Experiences of moving from child to adult healthcare programmes.
Almost two-thirds of participants met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders – 4th edition criteria for ADHD at study entry and 91% had ADHD-related impairment in at least one activity; despite this, 45% of these young people were not in contact with clinical services, and only 9% had transitioned or were currently transitioning to adult care. Three-quarters of the families surveyed had not been counselled on moving over to adult services, and those who had received guidance reported that this conversation was brief.
Significant correlates of health-service contact were younger participant age (with a 35% drop in the likelihood of seeking care with every added year of age at study baseline) and parent-reported impairment.
Generalisability of these results is limited, as the population was overwhelmingly white (100%) and male (90%); however, these findings are striking and highlight a likely unmet need for age-appropriate care and greater support for youths with ADHD in the UK.
Read more about healthcare service use by young people with ADHD here
Eklund H, Cadman T, Findon J, et al. Clinical service use as people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder transition into adolescence and adulthood: a prospective longitudinal study. BMC Health Serv Res 2016; 16: 248.