Time To Pay Attention: What The Newest ADHD Research Is Telling Us

Yesterday, a nicely executed study came out showing that ADHD persists into adulthood for about 30% of people who have it as kids. Not only does it persist, but regardless of whether it followed them into adulthood, people who suffered from it as children had a greater risk of other mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse, and possibly even suicide. The risk of having a psychiatric disorder as an adult was, of course, much higher if ADHD persisted into that stage of life

These connections aren’t exactly news: Other studies have arrived at similar results, but they’ve varied so greatly in the methods they used and the connections they found that it’s been hard to know the actual rates and risks of comorbidities over the long-term. So, the fact that the new study, done by researchers at Mayo Clinic and BostonChildren’s Hospital, used more reliable means (it was a large-scale, prospective study that followed kids into adulthood and quizzed them about their psychiatric health then and there) to arrive at the findings mentioned above is a boon to ADHD research. Child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists have been pretty well aware of the connection for years, but it’s good to have a well-designed study support it strongly.

So the question is then, what are we supposed to do with all this? How do these accumulating studies affect our understanding of the disorder? The short answer is that it’s probably pretty well time to revamp our approach to ADHD, which at the moment leaves a lot to be desired. Seeing ADHD as a chronic health problem whose earliest symptoms can be often be present around age three (and should be intervened with right then, in ways involving the whole family) is really what these studies are trying to get us toward.

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