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Men Diagnosed with ADHD as Children Suffer Worse Outcomes as Adults: New research from CSC's Dr. Rachel Klein shows importance of continued treatment

Sad teenage boy

A new study conducted by researchers at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center found men diagnosed as children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had significantly worse educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes in a 33-year follow-up study compared to men who were not diagnosed. The study appears in the October 15 online edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) publication.

"Few studies have focused on long-term outcomes for patients diagnosed with ADHD in childhood. We wanted to determine if men diagnosed with ADHD as children continued to suffer from worse outcomes as adults," said lead author Rachel G. Klein, PhD, Fascitelli Family Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Child Study Center. "Our results found men diagnosed with ADHD had completed less schooling, were more likely to be divorced and had lower annual salaries compared to men who did not have ADHD as children. In terms of basic accomplishments, they were at a disadvantage."

Learn More: Watch the video of a Grand Rounds lecture presentation on this research by Drs. Rachel Klein and F. Xavier Castellanos.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders, often diagnosed in childhood and lasting into adulthood. People with ADHD typically have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors and tend to be overly active. ADHD has an estimated worldwide prevalence of 5 percent, with men more likely to be diagnosed than women.

The prospective study included 135 white men diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 8 and a comparison group of 136 men not diagnosed with childhood ADHD. The average age at follow up was 41 years old. The study was designed to specifically assess whether, well into adulthood, children diagnosed with ADHD in childhood had worse educational, occupational, economic, social, and marital outcomes and higher rates of ongoing ADHD, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse issues, psychiatric disorders, psychiatric hospitalizations and incarcerations than their counterparts not diagnosed with ADHD as children.

Results showed that, on average, men with childhood ADHD had two and half fewer years of schooling than comparison participants, 31 percent did not complete high school (vs. 4 percent of men without childhood ADHD) and only 3 percent had higher degrees (vs. 29 percent). In addition, they had more divorces (31 percent compared to 12 percent), higher rates of ongoing ADHD, and suffered from antisocial personality disorder and substances abuse disorders.

"Our findings confirm that men diagnosed with ADHD as children had multiple disadvantages throughout their lifetime," said Dr. Klein. "It's essential that we monitor children with ADHD through adolescence and continue to treat them to help off-set issues that can extend into adulthood."

The research was supported by grants MH-18579 and T32 MH-067763 from the National Institute of Mental Health, and grant DA-16979 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Co-authors of the study include Salvatore Mannuzza, PhD (retired); Erica Roizen, PhD, of Columbia University; Jesse A. Hutchinson, BA, American University; Erin C. Lashua, MA, Xavier Castellanos, MD, and Maria A. Ramos Olazagasti, PhD, of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.