The Lasting Effects of Childhood ADHD

ADHD diagnosis early in life could mean worse social and economic problems later in life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may face difficulty learning, but what is the quality of life for these children years later? As adults, they may face even greater challenges.

A new study suggests that, on average, young boys diagnosed with ADHD become men with less education and worse economic and social status than their non-ADHD counterparts.

This may mean the sooner a person enters therapy, the better.

"Seek specialized treatment for ADHD."

The study was lead by Rachel G. Klein, PhD, of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

"Findings highlight the importance of extended monitoring and treatment of children with ADHD," conclude the study authors.

Participants in the study were diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 8 years old. The follow-up assessment took place 33 years later, at an average age of 41. The study consisted of 135 white men diagnosed with ADHD, and 136 white men who were not diagnosed.

The researchers found that 31% of the men with ADHD did not complete high school, while only 4% of those not diagnosed did not complete high school. Only 4% of those diagnosed attained higher education, but 29% of those not diagnosed attended a secondary school.

Additionally, 31% of those diagnosed were divorced compared to 11% of those not diagnosed.

Those diagnosed with ADHD were also more likely to have a substance abuse disorder (14% vs 5%, respectively), like alcoholism or drug abuse, or anti-social personality disorder (16% vs 0%).

Interestingly, there was little difference in the number of anxiety or mood disorders between the two groups.

“Early identification and comprehensive treatment beginning as a very young child is key to overcoming these poor outcomes in adulthood,” adds dailyRx Contributing Expert, therapist and social worker LuAnn Pierce, MS.

“It is never too late to start treatment and repair the damage from the early years. Gaps in education and learned behaviors can be unlearned with therapy."

The study was published online in October, 2012, in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 25, 2012
Last Updated:
October 29, 2012