Children don’t always grow out of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research shows. A study published March 4 in the online journal Pediatrics found that children diagnosed with ADHD are more likely as adults to have psychiatric disorders, commit suicide and be incarcerated. The study, conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Boston Children’s Hospital, followed nearly 6,000 children in Rochester, Minn. born between 1976 and 1982. Of this group, 367 were diagnosed with ADHD. Approximately three-quarters of the study participants received treatment for ADHD as children.
The study revealed that as adults, 29 percent of these children still had ADHD, and 57 percent had at least one psychiatric disorder. Among adults that did not have ADHD as children, the rate of those suffering from psychiatric disorders is 35 percent.
Substance abuse and dependency, anxiety, depression, hypomanic episodes and antisocial personality disorders were the most common disorders found in the adults. Of the group with ADHD as children, ten were incarcerated at the start of the follow-up study. Only 37.5 percent of the ADHD children were free of “worrisome outcomes” as adults, according to lead researcher William Barbaresi, M.D.
Dr. Baraesi believes the findings may underestimate the problem as study participants had the advantages of white, middle-class families with access to health care and good education. “One can argue that this is potentially a best-case scenario. Outcomes could be worse in socioeconomically challenged populations.”
Barbaresi advises parents of ADHD children to see that their children receive high-quality treatment and continue treatment through adolescence. This study is the first population-based study that followed a large group of children diagnosed with ADHD.