Psychological Medicine

Review Article

The age-dependent decline of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis of follow-up studies

a1 Medical Genetics Research Program and Department of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA
a2 Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit of the Child Psychiatry Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
a3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Article author query
faraone sv   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
biederman j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mick e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. This study examined the persistence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) into adulthood.

Method. We analyzed data from published follow-up studies of ADHD. To be included in the analysis, these additional studies had to meet the following criteria: the study included a control group and it was clear from the methods if the diagnosis of ADHD included subjects who did not meet full criteria but showed residual and impairing signs of the disorder. We used a meta-analysis regression model to separately assess the syndromatic and symptomatic persistence of ADHD.

Results. When we define only those meeting full criteria for ADHD as having ‘persistent ADHD’, the rate of persistence is low, ~15% at age 25 years. But when we include cases consistent with DSM-IV's definition of ADHD in partial remission, the rate of persistence is much higher, ~65%.

Conclusions. Our results show that estimates of ADHD's persistence rely heavily on how one defines persistence. Yet, regardless of definition, our analyses show that evidence for ADHD lessens with age. More work is needed to determine if this reflects true remission of ADHD symptoms or is due to the developmental insensitivity of diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

(Published Online May 3 2005)

c1 Department of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, 750 East Adams St., Syracuse, NY 13210, USA. (Email: