Teens with ADHD are likely to carry with them a variety of difficulties into adulthood, including problems with physical and mental health, work and finances, according to a new long term study.
Approximately 40 percent of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms into adulthood, according to research from the group Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
”ADHD in adolescence has long-lasting effects on adjusting to the vicissitudes of life and is associated with difficulties in being a wage earner, worker, parent, and so forth,” said researcher David W. Brook, M.D., professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine.
The researchers followed 551 teens with ADHD from the time they were 14 to 16 years old until they turned 37. The original study began in 1975. Brook believes it may be the longest study to follow teens with ADHD to investigate its later impact.
The researchers assessed how well the teens did as they developed from adolescence into early adulthood. They evaluated physical and mental health, work performance, concerns over finances, and other areas.
“We wanted to look at the long-term effects of ADHD in adolescence on later functioning,” Brook says.
Compared to teens and young adults without ADHD, those with ADHD were:
- nearly twice as likely to have physical health problems;
- more than twice as likely to have mental health issues;
- more than five times as likely to have antisocial personality disorder;
- more than twice as likely to have impaired work performance;
- more than three times as likely to have financial stress.
The researchers didn’t investigate why the problems of ADHD persist, but Brook has an idea.
“We think it has to do with impaired difficulty in the parent-child relationship when they are teens,” he said.
Parents whose children are diagnosed with ADHD may have trouble forming a close, mutual parent-child relationship, said Brook. A close parent-child relationship may help protect an individual from later problems, he said.
“It’s not surprising at all,” said Ruth Hughes, Ph.D., the CEO of CHADD. “The authors really emphasize the importance of intervention early, and we absolutely agree,” she said. Without early treatment, children can develop very unhealthy coping mechanisms.
For instance, she said, a teen with ADHD may say: “Why try? Everyone says I am a screw-up.” However, if parents and teachers stress the value of trying, and value that over the outcome, the teen may take another view.