A Really Big Story yesterday on ADHD: A BMJ study finds adults with ADHD lose three weeks of work per year (via absence, lost efficiency, etc.) compared to coworkers without ADHD. Yikes. Let's dig in and figure out what this really means.
What you need to know:
1. A vast majority of the workers with ADHD were untreated. Essentially, the study is silent on the productivity of workers getting the correct treatment for ADHD. The study doesn't say so, but it's a reasonable inference that the productivity gap would shrink for folks getting the right treatment for ADHD.
2. Should employees be screened for ADHD? Co-author Ronald Kessler said: "So given that employers are increasingly thinking about health care costs in terms of investment opportunities, we think it's useful to point out that it's probably a very smart and profitable business move for employers to screen their workers for ADHD and get them into treatment."
Screening employees for medical conditions is a common feature of company wellness plans. My observation: An ADHD screen--which is based on behavioral, not measurable characteristics things like high blood lipids--seems different in kind. It's more like company screening for depression, which also feels different, and a bit more intrusive than a blood pressure reading.
3. Solution: Education and options? Again, more of my personal observation: Certainly a pre-employment screening is out of the question for legal and ethical reasons. But offering an optional, confidential screen for current employees who choose it may be useful. Combined with education of the entire workforce about ADHD that could help people understand whether it may affect them, this could be a constructive employer response.
All right, I'm off my soapbox and back to the journalist role:
- Here's the HealthDay news story on the study of ADHD and work productivity.
- U.S. News has an excellent interview with adult ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell. He puts the findings in context and has some tips and perspectives on treatment. And this inspirational quote, regarding his own ADHD:
What's been most helpful for you in dealing with ADHD?
Marry the right person, find the right job. I really see my ADD now as an asset in my life. The curiosity, the energy, the imagination is an advantage for me. I wouldn't trade it for the world.