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People With ADHD Symptoms More Likely to Be Self-Employed

I’ve been preaching for a while about how being self-employed can be a good route to take for people with ADHD. Now I might have some evidence to back this idea up.

ADHD and Self-EmploymentResearchers from the Netherlands have just published a study in European Journal of Epidemiology looking at the relation between ADHD symptoms and self-employment.

In a sample of 7,208 Swedish adults, then a replication sample of 13,112 Dutch students, they showed that people with high levels of ADHD symptoms are more likely to be self-employed.

Interestingly, the relationship between ADHD symptoms and self-employment was strongest for hyperactive symptoms. That is, people with high levels of hyperactive symptoms were the ones who tended to be self-employed most often.

My impression is that the finding that ADHD and self-employment often go together makes pretty good sense. When you’re self-employed, everything you do has consequences, and this pressure can be energizing and stimulating for people with ADHD. Plus, being able to create your own work environment means you can do things in whatever way fits best with your brain.

People with ADHD also tend to like starting projects and creating new things. So the excitement of building a business or freelancing practice can be just what they need to kick their brains into gear.

Finally, there’s the fact that people with ADHD often don’t do at all well with routine. Structure can be helpful for managing ADHD symptoms, but too much structure can be fatal. When you’re self-employed, it’s easier to mix things up (and harder to make things predictable). This novelty can be a big plus for people with ADHD.

For many of these same reasons, people with ADHD often become entrepreneurs. As with self-employment, the link between ADHD and entrepreneurship is something people have been speculating about for a while, but scientists are now starting to turn up some hard evidence.

For example, research published last year found that in a group of 10,104 college students, those with higher levels of ADHD symptoms were more likely to have intentions of becoming entrepreneurs. In this case, the connection was  explained partly by risk taking – both people with ADHD and entrepreneurs were more open to risk.

This doesn’t mean everyone with ADHD should quit their job and start a business. But it does mean that in general, people with ADHD seem to be drawn to work situations that give them more autonomy.

So if you’re thinking of becoming self-employed or starting a business but are afraid your ADHD will get in the way, don’t let that stop you – it could be just the thing your ADHD brain needs!

What d’you think about the connection between ADHD and self-employment/entrepreneurship? Post in the comments!

Images: Bizior

People With ADHD Symptoms More Likely to Be Self-Employed

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). People With ADHD Symptoms More Likely to Be Self-Employed. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 May 2016
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