Childhood ADHD Lingers into Adulthood, Increased Risk for Other Psychiatric Disorders

First Posted: Mar 04, 2013 08:47 AM EST

A recent study found that for many with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in childhood, the problem lingers into adulthood, with an included risk for a range of added psychiatric disorders.

According to the study, published in April's Pediatritcs and released online Monday, 29 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD still had the condition at age 27, and nearly 57 percent of those diagnosed during childhood had at least one other psychiatric disorder as an adult, compared with 35 percent of those in a comparison study who did not have childhood ADHD.

These statistics show that approximately a third of children diagnosed with ADHD during childhood had the same problem as an adult and an added problem.

The most commonly seen adult psychiatric problems among childhood ADHD cases are the following: alcohol abuse/dependence (26 percent); antisocial personality disorder (17 percent), other substance abuse/dependence (16 percent); hypomanic episodes (15 percent); anxiety disorder (14 percent) and major depression (13 percent).

"The risk for persistent ADHD is considerable, and the risk for at least one mental health condition, including ADHD, is extraordinarily high," says lead investigator William Barbaresi, a developmental medicine specialist at Boston Children's Hospital. "Only 37.5 percent of the children we contacted as adults were free of these really worrisome outcomes."

The study also showed other disturbing information. Suicide risk for those with adult ADHD was nearly five times higher than for those in the comparison group, and nearly three percent of study participants were in jeail when recruited for the adult portion of the study.

ADHD is one of the most common neuro-developmental disorders of childhood, affecting as many as 9% of kids ages 3 to 17 (5 million children) and between 2% and 4% of adults, according to the National Resource Center on ADHD. Symptoms include excessive inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Conducted with researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the study drew from all 5,718 children born between 1976 and 1982 and still residing in Rochester at age 5 and whose families allowed access to their medical records. Among that population, 367 who had documented ADHD participated; 232 who met the study's criteria for adult ADHD participated in the follow-up study at age 27.

Although 29 percent of the childhood ADHD cases continued to have ADHD as adults, 71 percent did not, and it's unclear what accounts for that difference, according to USAToday

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