by Oretha Winston, Lead Editor, Elev8
The first large, population-based study to follow children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder into adulthood shows that ADHD often doesn’t go away and that children with ADHD are more likely to have other psychiatric disorders as adults. They also appear more likely to commit suicide and to be incarcerated as adults. The findings appear in the March 4 online issue of Pediatrics.
“Only 37.5 percent of the children we contacted as adults were free of these really worrisome outcomes,” says lead investigator William Barbaresi, M.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, who started the study when he was at Mayo. “That’s a sobering statistic that speaks to the need to greatly improve the long-term treatment of children with ADHD and provide a mechanism for treating them as adults.”
The study is unique because it followed a large group of ADHD patients from childhood to adulthood, says Slavica Katusic, M.D., an epidemiologist and Mayo Clinic’s lead researcher on the study.
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ADHD is the most common neuro-developmental disorder of childhood, affecting about 7 percent of all children and three times as many boys as girls. Most prior follow-up studies of ADHD have been small and focused on the severe end of the spectrum — such as boys referred to pediatric psychiatric treatment facilities — rather than a cross-section of the ADHD population.
The study followed all children in Rochester who were born between 1976 and 1982, were still in Rochester at age 5 and whose families allowed access to their medical records. That amounted to 5,718 children, including 367 diagnosed with ADHD. Of this group, 232 participated in the follow-up study. About three-quarters received ADHD treatment as children.
At follow-up, the researchers found:
- 29 percent of children with ADHD still had ADHD as adults.
- 57 percent of children with ADHD had at least one other psychiatric disorder as adults, as compared with 35 percent of those studied who didn’t have childhood ADHD. The most common were substance abuse/dependence, antisocial personality disorder, hypomanic episodeshypomanic episodes, generalized anxiety and major depression.
- Of the children who still had ADHD as adults, 81 percent had at least one other psychiatric disorder, as compared with 47 percent of those who no longer had ADHD and 35 percent of those without childhood ADHD.
- Seven of the 367 children with ADHD (1.9 percent) had died by the time the study began, three of them from suicide. Of the 4,946 children without ADHD whose outcomes could be ascertained, 37 children had died, five by suicide.
- Ten adults who had childhood ADHD (2.7 percent) were incarcerated when the study started.
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