Does ADHD Increase The Risk of an Early Death?
Individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have nearly double the risk of premature death compared to the general population according to a new study published in The Lancet.
Older studies have suggested there may be a link between premature death and the attention disorder, but until now none have been able to demonstrate a clear correlation.
The new study from a small group of Danish researchers found people diagnosed with ADHD at 18 or older were over four times more likely to die at a young age compared to the average person. Troublingly, the risk appears to increase with age and the death rate for women in the study was nearly double that of men.
The researchers say many of the premature deaths can be attributed to freak accidents and car crashes, which may be related to issues with inattention and impulsivity which characterize the disorder.
For the study, the team of researchers analyzed data from nearly two million people on national medical registers. The registers tracked the individuals from their first birthdays through 2013, for a maximum of slightly over 30 years.
Of the 107 participants in the study with ADHD who died, researchers were able to get information on the causes of death for 79 individuals. The majority were attributed to unnatural causes (54 people), while only 25 died from natural causes. The vast majority of those who died from unnatural causes had been involved in accidents.
“This study provides the first evidence of increased all-cause mortality in individuals with ADHD,” the study authors concluded. “The excess mortality in ADHD was mainly driven by deaths from unnatural causes, especially accidents.”
While the findings seem worrying, the study’s authors indicate the risk of premature death for individuals with ADHD is still relatively low. The lead author, Søren Dalsgaard from the Aarhus University in Denmark, told Vox, “Among two million individuals in the total cohort, 5,580 died during follow-up. Among those 32,000 with ADHD within this cohort 107 died.” Put simply, the number of people with ADHD who died is ultimately still very small.
Dalsgaard also said the risk is small even within individuals with ADHD. “When following 10,000 patients with ADHD for one year, 5.8 died, compared to only 2.2 deaths among 10,000 individuals without the disorder within one year.”
The research also suggests treatment may help reduce the risk of premature death, as many who died reported insufficient or no treatment which often started years after the condition developed.