Childhood ADHD May Limit Adult Achievements

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Having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a child may affect a person’s education and salary prospects years later, a new study suggests.

In the study, men who were diagnosed with ADHD as children achieved lower levels of education and earned less money at age 41 compared with men who did not have the condition in childhood.

In addition, men diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to be divorced, have a substance abuse disorder or have been in prison compared to those without childhood ADHD.

The findings "highlight the importance of extended monitoring and treatment of children with ADHD," the researchers said.

About 3 to 5 percent of schoolchildren have ADHD, or problems with attentiveness, over-activity and impulsivity that are abnormal for the children's ages, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Previously, researchers thought ADHD symptoms disappeared during the teenage years, but studies have found this is not always the case. Some reports show higher rates of antisocial personality disorders and substance abuse disorders in young adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children, the researchers said. However, few studies have followed people who had childhood ADHD into their 30s or beyond.

In the new study, Rachel Klein, of New York University's Langone Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed information from 135 white men who were diagnosed with ADHD at around age 8, and followed them for more than 30 years. Researchers also looked at 136 men who were not diagnosed with ADHD as children.

On average, men with childhood ADHD completed 2.5 fewer years of education, and earned about $40,000 less annually than those without ADHD.

Only about 3.7 percent of participants with childhood ADHD obtained a graduate degree, compared with about 30 percent of those without ADHD.

In addition, 36 percent of participants with childhood ADHD had gone to prison for at least one day in their lives, compared with 11 percent of those without ADHD. Nine percent of participants with childhood ADHD were divorced, compared with 3 percent without ADHD.

ADHD participants were not at increased risk of anxiety or mood disorders, however, the study found.

The study began in the 1970s, when little was known about diagnosing or treating children who had ADHD, the researchers noted. However, the study did exclude children with conduct disorder, which is a related behavior problem in which children exhibit aggressive or antisocial behavior.

Because the study included only white males, it's not clear if the results apply to women or to other ethnic groups, the researchers said. In addition, the results were based on self-reports, which may not be entirely accurate.

The study was published online today (Oct. 15) in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

Pass it on: Men diagnosed with ADHD in childhood have worse outcomes as adults, including lower salaries, compared to those without childhood ADHD.

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Live Science Staff
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