ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, with more than 11% of children carrying the diagnosis in 2011. That's a notable increase from 2003's statistic of 7.8%. Yet for many children with ADHD—as well as the adults they grow into—life continues to be a struggle. ADHD is more than just a learning disability or mental health condition. It does far more than just inhibit learning or make children more “difficult.” According to one new study, it greatly increases its sufferers' odds of dying young.

ADHD and Premature Death

The study by researchers from the University of Denmark tracked two million Danes, 32,000 of whom suffered with ADHD. Researchers adjusted the data for premature death risk factors such as family history, parental age and education, age, sex, and similar factors. Yet even with these adjustments, people with ADHD were more than twice as likely to die prematurely as those without the condition.

More than half of the deaths were due to accidents, suggesting that the impulsive behavior and inhibited decision-making skills that parents of ADHD children so often lament may play a role in ADHD-related deaths. Interestingly, the risk of dying increased in women and girls as well as men and boys.

According to most statistics, males are more likely to die due to accidents than females, but ADHD could be the great equalizer, making both men and women vulnerable to dangerous risk-taking behavior. Indeed, the study found that girls and women with ADHD were actually more likely to die prematurely than boys and men. People with ADHD who were diagnosed late in life were more likely to die prematurely, suggesting that inadequate treatment might increase the death toll.

How and Why Does ADHD Kill?

ADHD increases its sufferers' risks of experiencing a number of life-threatening issues. Though this study found that accidents figured most prominently in the death toll, other factors may be at play as well. Over the course of a lifetime, difficulty with time management and attention can add up to unhealthy lifestyle choices. A person with ADHD may delay or miss doctor's appointments, have trouble keeping track of a doctor's recommendations, or fail to follow up with medical care.

Other research has shown that ADHD increases individuals' risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse is life-threatening, and even when addicts recover, the drugs they use may shorten their life spans.

Reducing the Risk

The research is clear. Treating ADHD greatly reduces all of its attendant risks. Stimulant drugs can help reduce impulsiveness and improve judgment, but ADHD is a disorder that can touch every area of a sufferer's life. Therapy, family support, and academic interventions all play a role in ensuring people with ADHD have long, happy lives.

References:

Data & Statistics. (2014, December 10). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

People with ADHD more likely to die young. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.healthcentral.com/dailydose/cf/2015/02/26/people_with_adhd_mo...

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