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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD and previously referred to as ADD, is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood and it can carry into adulthood.  While it was previously thought to affect males more often, research has shown that this is only because men and boys are more likely to be referred for ADHD testing while women and girls are consistently under-diagnosed and under-treated.

With ADHD, severity can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, and symptoms affect each person in varying degrees.  Depending on which symptoms arise, individuals are often diagnosed with one of three ADHD subtypes.

The three subtypes of ADHD:

  • Predominantly inattentive. The majority of symptoms fall under inattention.
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. The majority of symptoms are hyperactive and impulsive.
  • Combined. The most common type in the U.S., this is a mix of inattentive symptoms and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

The National Resource on ADHD has more information about the symptoms of each subtype here: About ADHD.

Childhood ADHD

ADHD affects an estimated 4-12% of school-aged children worldwide.  According to the Mayo Clinic, ADHD symptoms start before age 12, and in some children, they’re noticeable as early as 3 years of age.

Outcome for children with ADHD can vary significantly:

  • Approximately 30% of children with ADHD followed into adulthood will do well and function similarly to the general adult population.
  • Approximately 50-60% of children continue to have significant problems in adulthood with inattention, impulsivity, and social interaction. These symptoms will manifest in work difficulties, impaired interpersonal relations, poor self-esteem, impulsivity, irritability, anxiety and emotional lability.
  • The remaining 10-15% of children will have significant adult psychiatric and/or antisocial problems. These may include severe depression and significant drug and alcohol abuse.  They may also exhibit significant antisocial behavior including assault, drug dealing, and other criminal activity.

In the past, it was thought that ADHD was a childhood condition that you grew out of, but research now estimates that about 60 percent of children with ADHD in the U.S. will become adults with ADHD.

Adulthood ADHD

ADHD affects an estimated 4-5% of college-aged students and adults worldwide.  Adults with ADHD may exhibit the same symptoms they had as children, and although hyperactivity often diminishes by adulthood, inattentiveness and impulsivity may persist.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 50% of adults with ADHD will also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

An ADHD diagnosis does not mean you cannot get life insurance. In fact, preferred ratings (best possible life insurance risk class, in other words) are not out of the question.

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Underwriting ADHD for Life Insurance

The risk class of an applicant with ADHD is determined by a life insurance company underwriter.  Whether the ADHD diagnosis is mild, moderate, or severe plays a big part.

ADHD Severity in Children
MildChildren who fit in the primarily inattentive ADHD subtype, with normal IQ (> 70), only minor behavior difficulties, little aggression, no diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD), and treated with no more than one medication.
ModerateChildren within the hyperactive and impulsive subtypes, normal IQ (>70), with one or more of the following: learning disabilities, behavior difficulties and/or aggression including oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and use of up to 2 medications.
SevereChildren who meet the criteria for moderate ADHD with additionally one or more of the following: significant aggression or violence, conduct disorder (CD), personality disorder, or alcohol or substance misuse.


ADHD Severity in Adults
MildAdults with primary symptoms of inattentiveness, distractibility, restlessness and forgetfulness with little interference with daily functioning.
ModerateAdults with many of these features: inattentiveness, restlessness, distinct short mood shifts, emotional over-reactivity, disorganization, impatience, co-morbid mild depression, marital instability, or difficulties with occupational performance.
SevereAdults with motor hyperactivity and inattentiveness in addition to one or more of the following: explosive temper, relationship or work difficulties, impulse buying, motor vehicle accidents, alcohol or substance abuse, depression, conduct or personality disorder, or arrest history.

Because ADHD affects individuals quite differently, underwriters will not just make a snap decision based on the ADHD diagnosis alone.  They will evaluate a number of factors.

These factors include:

  • age at diagnosis
  • extent and results of diagnostic evaluations
  • predominant symptoms
  • treatment
  • names of drugs and dosages
  • other mental or nervous disorders
  • MVR (motor vehicle record)
  • arrest history
  • occupation and school/occupational performance

An ADHD diagnosis does not mean you cannot get life insurance.  In fact, preferred ratings (best possible life insurance risk class, in other words) are not out of the question.  To be considered for a preferred rating, life insurance companies will typically want to see the following:

  • the ADHD diagnosis is mild
  • applicant is over the age of 30
  • there are no other psychiatric diagnoses or personality disorders
  • there is no history of alcohol or drug abuse nor adverse MVR information
  • there is no history of hospitalization for ADHD or mood symptoms, attempted suicide, or missed work or school of greater than 1 week due to ADHD or mood symptoms
  • there has been no treatment or medication for ADHD or mood symptoms in the last 5 years

Quotacy is an independent agency which means we work with multiple life insurance companies.  Not all life insurance companies underwrite the same way and some will be more lenient with ADHD than others.  If you apply through Quotacy and we see on your application you list that you have (or had) ADHD, we will let you know which carriers are more likely to give you a favorable rating and line up some options for you.

ADHD is one of the most common health issues we come across.  Our agents are experienced in helping people with ADHD buy life insurance.  Reach out to us at any time via livechat, email, phone, or text if you have any questions or start the process now by getting a free term life insurance quote.


Photo credit to: Jad Limcaco


About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays

Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.