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Psychol Med. 2015 Jan;45(2):361-73. doi: 10.1017/S0033291714001470. Epub 2014 Jun 23.

ADHD in DSM-5: a field trial in a large, representative sample of 18- to 19-year-old adults.

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ADHD Out-patient Program, Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Department of Psychiatry,Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul,Brazil.
Post-Graduate Program in Epidemiology,Federal University of Pelotas,Brazil.



The DSM criteria for adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have not been tested in American Psychiatric Association (APA) field trials for either DSM-IV or DSM-5. This study aimed to assess: (a) the prevalence of ADHD according to DSM-5 criteria; (b) the factor solution that provides the best fit for ADHD symptoms; (c) the symptoms with the highest predictive value for clinical impairment; and (d) the best symptomatic threshold for each ADHD dimension (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity).


Trained psychologists evaluated 4000 young adults from the 1993 Pelotas Birth Cohort Study with an instrument covering all DSM-5 ADHD criteria. A series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) tested the best factor structure. Complex logistic regressions assessed differential contributions of each symptom to clinical impairment. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analyses tested which would be the best symptomatic cut-off in the number of symptoms for predicting impairment.


The prevalence of DSM-5 ADHD was 3.55% [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.98-4.12]. The estimated prevalence of DSM-IV ADHD was 2.8%. CFA revealed that a bifactor model with a single general factor and two specific factors provided the best fit for DSM-5 symptoms. Inattentive symptoms continued to be the most important predictors of impairment in adults. The best cut-offs were five symptoms of inattention and four symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity.


Our results, combined with previous findings, suggest a 27% increase in the expected prevalence of ADHD among young adults, comparing DSM-IV to DSM-5 criteria. The DSM-5 symptomatic organization derived a similar factor structure for adults as DSM-IV symptoms. Data using DSM-5 criteria support lowering the symptomatic threshold for diagnosing ADHD in adults.


ADHD; DSM-5; diagnostic performance; epidemiology; prevalence

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