Study: Adult ADHD Associated With Physical Conditions


The strongest associations with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were present for nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and metabolic diseases.

Adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk for many physical conditions, including those affecting the nervous, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems and metabolic diseases, according to new research published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

ADHD is a common neuropsychiatric condition characterized by inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. It is typically treated with stimulant therapy, and earlier research has suggested that adults with the disorder are at an increased risk for some physical conditions; however, only a few of these associations have been thoroughly researched, according to the authors of the current study.

Detailed treatment guidelines for adults with ADHD are also lacking, according to the study. To address these gaps, researchers at the Karolinska Institutet examined potential associations between ADHD and a range of physical diseases in adulthood, in addition to whether genetic or environmental factors could be involved in these associations.

“Identifying co-occurring physical diseases may have important implications for treating adults with ADHD and for benefiting the long-term health and quality of life of patients,” said lead author Ebba Du Rietz, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet, in a press release.

More than 4 million individuals born between 1932 and 1995 were identified and followed between 1973 and 2013. The participants consisted of both full-sibling and maternal half-sibling pairs and clinical diagnoses were obtained from the Swedish National Patient Register. The researchers examined the risk of 35 different physical conditions in individuals with ADHD compared to those without, and in siblings of individuals with ADHD compared to siblings of those without.

The investigators found that those with ADHD had a statistically significant increased risk of all studied physical conditions except for arthritis. The strongest associations were present for nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and metabolic diseases.

Furthermore, the diagnoses most strongly associated with ADHD were alcohol-related liver disease, sleep disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, epilepsy, fatty liver disease, and obesity. The disorder was also associated with a slightly higher risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson disease, and dementia.

“These results are important because stimulant therapy requires careful monitoring in ADHD patients with co-occurring cardiac disease, hypertension, and liver failure,” said senior author Henrik Larsson, a professor at the Orebro University and affiliated researcher at the Karolinska Institutet, in the press release.

These increased risks were mostly attributable to underlying genetic factors that contributed both to ADHD and to the physical disease, except for nervous system disorders and age-related diseases. Full siblings of individuals with ADHD also had significantly increased risks for most physical conditions. With these findings in mind, the research team is now aiming to study the underlying mechanisms and risk factors as well as the impact of ADHD on the management and prognosis of physical diseases in adults.


Adult ADHD is linked to numerous physical conditions. News release. Karolinska Institutet. July 7, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021.

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