Abstract: Objective: The construct of impulsivity is an important determinant of personality differences, psychiatric disorders, and associated risk-taking behaviors. Most existing knowledge about impulsivity comes from clinical samples. To date, no study has estimated the prevalence of impulsivity and examined its correlates in the general population.Method: We analyzed data from a large national sample of the United States population. Face-to-face surveys of 34 653 adults aged 18 years and older residing in households were conducted during the 2004–2005 period. Diagnoses of mood, anxiety, and drug disorders as well as personality disorders were based on the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule—DSM-IV Version.Results: Impulsivity was common (17% of the sample), particularly among males and younger individuals, and associated with a broad range of axis I and II disorders, particularly drug dependence, cluster B, dependent and schizotypal personality disorders, bipolar disorder and ADHD. It was associated with behavioral disinhibition, attention deficits, and lack of planning. Individuals with impulsivity were more likely to engage in behaviors that could be dangerous to themselves or others, including driving recklessly, starting fights, shoplifting, perpetrating domestic violence and trying to hurt or kill themselves. They were exposed to higher risk of lifetime trauma and to substantial physical and psychosocial impairment.Conclusion: Given the association of impulsivity with psychiatric disorders and multiple adverse events, there is a need to target impulsivity in prevention and treatment efforts.
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