A depressing study links ADHD to suicide and other mental health problems

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be linked to suicide and depression, according to a new study published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. Researchers at the University of Chicago, Illinois followed 125 children diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of four to six, and 123 ADHD-free children, until they turned 18. They found that 12 percent of the ADHD children versus 1.6 percent of the ADHD-free children had a suicide plan and that 18 percent of ADHD kids had attempted suicide during the followup period (compared to 5.7 percent of ADHD-free group). ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by an inability to remain focused, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity. Those children exhibiting ADHD with both attention deficits and hyperactivity were at higher risk of both depression and suicide while those who only had attention problems were at risk for depression.

“These findings suggest that it is possible to identify children with ADHD at very young ages who are at very high risk for later depression and suicidal behavior,” the authors conclude. “Considered in light of what is already known about the antisocial outcomes of childhood ADHD and their risk for unintentional injury, it would not be premature to test early prevention programs designed to reduce both serious behavioral and affective sequelae [emotional consequences] of ADHD in early childhood.”

“We certainly agree that the diagnosis of ADHD is not something to take lightly,” added ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross.