How Does ADHD Sometimes Lead to Premature Death?

Health Writer

Adults with ADHD face a number of difficulties in their life. They are more apt to have relationship problems, get divorced, lose a job, get more speeding tickets and be involved in more car accidents during their lifetime. According to a new  study, they can add one more problem: premature death.

The study, completed at Aarhus University in Denmark, found that those with ADHD had more than twice the risk of premature death. With ADHD women having the highest risk. The researchers looked at almost 2 million people and did follow up for over 32 years. Of the participants, 32,061 were diagnosed with ADHD and more than one-fourth of those were women.

Some of the results of the study:

  • Children diagnosed before the age of 6 years old had double the risk of premature death, as compared to children without ADHD.
  • For those diagnosed after the age of 18 years old, the risk was much higher than those diagnosed as children - a mortality rate ratio (MRR) of 4.25 for those diagnosed as adults as compared to a MRR of 1.58 for those diagnosed as children.
  • Women  had a much higher mortality rate than men did with an MRR of 3.01 for  women and 1.93 for men.

The increase, according to the researchers, was attributed to unnatural causes of death, with accidents being the highest cause of death. Car accidents are one concern;  previous research  has shown that teens with ADHD were more likely to be injured in a car accident than their non-ADHD counterparts. The researchers in this study concluded that "ADHD is a serious driver's disability."

In a  commentary that accompanied the study in the Lancet, Dr. Stephen Faraone, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in New York, points out that this study adds to the evidence that ADHD is a serious medical condition. Parents and  adults with ADHD, however, should realize that the increased risk is still a low absolute risk and that early identification and  evidence-based treatments  can lower the risk of prematurely dying from accidents and other unnatural causes.

For more information on ADHD and driving safety:

Teens with ADHD and Driving

New Research on ADHD and Driving

New Driving Program for Teens with ADHD

Promoting Safe Driving Habits in Teens with ADHD