People who are hyperactive – one of the main symptoms of ADHD – are more likely to start their own company, finds research from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

High energy levels, creativity and willingness to take risks give hyperactive people a flair for entrepreneurship.

Ingrid Verheul, lead researcher and assistant professor of entrepreneurship at RSM, discovered a strong relationship between ADHD and self-employment in two separate studies; one among more than 13,000 Dutch students and one examining 7,208 Swedish twins using data from the famous Karolina Institute in Stockholm.

Ingrid says:

“We had the opportunity to use data from the STAGE cohort in the Swedish Twin Registry (STR), which was initially established in the 1950s to study the effects of smoking and drinking on cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as the main source of data in this project. The STR contains both rich biological data and details of the socio-economic backgrounds of twins living in Sweden. Our results, which found that hyperactivity is positively linked with entrepreneurship, were verified by studying ADHD symptoms in relation to entrepreneurial activity in more than 13,000 students in Dutch universities.”

The researchers did not study the clinical diagnosis of ADHD as psychiatrists do, but instead looked at ADHD as a behavioural tendency.

Ingrid says:

“Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is often associated with low job performance and a greater chance of unemployment. Yet some prominent entrepreneurs have publicly credited their success to their ADHD symptoms. Among them are Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, and Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA.”

“These results could help to destigmatise ADHD because they demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a career path that may well fit the specific talents of individuals who experience ADHD symptoms. For example, the high energy levels of those with hyperactivity support them in taking initiative and becoming active as an entrepreneur. These positive effects do not only affect individual well-being, but also the society at large – given that self-employed people contribute significantly to innovation and economic growth.”