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A.D.H.D. Diagnosis Linked to Increased Risk of Dying Young

March 6, 2015

People with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder are at higher risk of dying young than those without the disorder, usually in automobile crashes and other accidents, suggests research reported on Wednesday, from the largest study of A.D.H.D. and mortality to date.

The study, an analysis of nearly two million Danish medical records, found that the odds that any individual with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder died young were still very low, about three in 1,000. But those with the disorder often had companion problems — drug abuse, for example, or antisocial behavior — that increased those odds.

Previous research had provided reason to suspect a link between attention deficits and mortality. But the new paper gives a clearer picture of the risks, and the possible reasons behind them, experts said. The study was published in The Lancet.

Stephen Faraone, a professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, said the findings should not panic parents of children with attention problems. “But this is a large, well-done study, and I see it as a red flag planted in the terrain, a reason to identify and treat A.D.H.D.” earlier rather later, said Dr. Faraone, who was not involved in the research.

In the study, a research team led by Dr. Soren Dalsgaard of Aarhus University analyzed the medical histories of all children born in Denmark between 1981 and 2011. The team found that of 32,061 who had been given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., 107 had died before age 33. That was roughly twice the rate of premature death among those without the disorder, after factors like age, psychiatric history and employment were taken into account.

The risk was even higher in people who received a diagnosis at age 18 or later, the study found — possibly because of the severity of such cases, the authors wrote. They included researchers from the Lundbeck Foundation in Denmark, which funded the research, and the Child Study Center at Yale.

But that heightened risk could also reflect a late diagnosis, Dr. Faraone said. Children with undiagnosed attention deficits often go off track, academically and socially, and by 18 may be living more recklessly than their peers.

“If you look at the groups of problems that tend to go with A.D.H.D — conduct disorders, antisocial behaviors, substance use,” he said, “only one of these is easily treatable. And that’s A.D.H.D.”

(Source: well.blogs.nytimes.com)


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