ADHD: a mental health risk?

“We have trivialized this condition.”

The latest research on ADHD reveals that it is a chronic health problem with almost 30% of children with ADHD still have symptoms as adults and have a much higher risk of mental health problems.

Are you surprised? This study, recently published in the Pediatrics journal stands out because it’s the largest of its kind and was conducted under the esteemed auspices of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. The study tracked 232 people who were born between 1976 and 1982 and were diagnosed with ADHD when they were children.

Other findings

  • Of those who still had ADHD as adults, 81% had at least one other psychiatric disorder.
  • Of those who no longer had ADHD, 47% had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Children with ADHD were nearly five times more likely to die from suicide than other people in the study group
  • More than 60% of kids with ADHD have a learning disability
  • Most children with ADHD develop at least one additional mental-health problem as children

More astonishing than the statistics was the statement by the study’s lead author William Barbaresi.  (Barbaresi is director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.)

“We have to stop trivializing ADHD as just another childhood behavior problem. The nature and duration of this study show we have to recognize it as a chronic serious health problem that deserves a lot more attention than it has received.”

Researchers are using this study to call attention to difficulties parents face in finding treatment for their children. For example when a child is diagnosed with diabetes, insurance companies have authorized preventative evaluations for co-existing conditions such as kidney or eye problems.  When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, insurance companies will not authorize additional mental health assessments until the problem has already occurred.

Do you believe ADHD is a mental health issue? How do you feel when you see ADHD coupled with mental illness?  Sound off in the comments below.

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