Background: In childhood, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by age-inappropriate levels of inattentiveness/disorganization, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, or a combination thereof. Although the criteria for ADHD are well defined, the long-term consequences in adults and children need to be more comprehensively understood and quantified. We conducted a systematic review evaluating the long-term outcomes (defined as 2 years or more) of ADHD with the goal of identifying long-term outcomes and the impact that any treatment (pharmacological, non-pharmacological, or multimodal) has on ADHD long-term outcomes.
Methods: Studies were identified using predefined search criteria and 12 databases. Studies included were peer-reviewed, primary studies of ADHD long-term outcomes published between January 1980 to December 2010. Inclusion was agreed on by two independent researchers on review of abstracts or full text. Published statistical comparison of outcome results were summarized as poorer than, similar to, or improved versus comparators, and quantified as percentage comparisons of these categories.
Results: Outcomes from 351 studies were grouped into 9 major categories: academic, antisocial behavior, driving, non-medicinal drug use/addictive behavior, obesity, occupation, services use, self-esteem, and social function outcomes. The following broad trends emerged: (1) without treatment, people with ADHD had poorer long-term outcomes in all categories compared with people without ADHD, and (2) treatment for ADHD improved long-term outcomes compared with untreated ADHD, although not usually to normal levels. Only English-language papers were searched and databases may have omitted relevant studies.
Conclusions: This systematic review provides a synthesis of studies of ADHD long-term outcomes. Current treatments may reduce the negative impact that untreated ADHD has on life functioning, but does not usually 'normalize' the recipients.