PhotoIt's estimated that 5% of children are afflicted with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They have a tough time as kids and a new stuy finds the results linger throughout their lives.

The 33-year study found that male adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD as children had significantly worse educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes compared to men without childhood ADHD, according to a report published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

“On average, [adult men who had ADHD as children] had 2½ fewer years of schooling than comparison participants … 31.1% did not complete high school (vs. 4.4% of comparison participants) and hardly any (3.7%) had higher degrees (whereas 29.4% of comparison participants did)," the authors of the study noted.

Similarly, the former ADHD patients "had significantly lower occupational attainment levels,” the authors note. While most (83.7%) were holding jobs, their median salary was $40,000 less than that of their more fortunate peers, a comparison the researchers called "striking."

Rachel G. Klein, Ph.D., of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and colleagues conducted the study, which included 135 men who had ADHD as children and 136 who did not.

The average age of the men in the study was 41. The average age at which they had been diagnosed with ADHD was 8.

“The multiple disadvantages predicted by childhood ADHD well into adulthood began in adolescence, without increased onsets of new disorders after 20 years of age. Findings highlight the importance of extended monitoring and treatment of children with ADHD,” the study concludes.

Other problems

Economic and social problems were not the only trouble the former ADHD patients encountered.

The men who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood also had more divorces (currently divorced, 9.6% vs. 2.9%, and ever been divorced 31.1% vs. 11.8%); and higher rates of ongoing ADHD (22.2% vs. 5.1%, the authors suspect the comparison participants’ ADHD symptoms might have emerged during adulthood), antisocial personality disorder (ASPD, 16.3% vs. 0%) and substance use disorders (SUDs, 14.1% vs. 5.1%), according to the results.

During their lifetime, the men who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood (the so-called "probands") also had significantly more ASPD and SUDs but not mood or anxiety disorders and more psychiatric hospitalizations and incarcerations than comparison participants. And relative to the comparison group, psychiatric disorders with onsets at 21 years of age or older were not significantly elevated in the probands, the study results indicate.

The authors note the design of their study precludes generalizing the results to women and all ethnic and social groups because the probands were white men of average intelligence who were referred to a clinic because of combined-type ADHD.

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