New research led by psychologists at the University of Bath in the UK shows that adults with high levels of symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop anxiety and depression than adults with high levels of autistic traits.
This study is the first to show that ADHD is more predictive of poor mental health outcomes in adults than other neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism.
To date, there has been a paucity of information about the effects of ADHD on poor mental health, with more research focusing on the impact of autism on depression, anxiety, and quality of life. As a result, people with ADHD often struggle to access the clinical care they need to manage their symptoms.
The study authors hope their findings will lead to new research on ADHD and ultimately improve mental health outcomes for people with the condition. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is estimated that the condition affects between 3% and 9% of the population.
Speaking on Blue Monday (January 16) — the third Monday in January, which some have called the most depressing day of the year — lead researcher Luca Hargitay said: “Scientists have long known that autism is linked to anxiety and depression, but ADHD has been neglected to an extent. what.
“Researchers also struggled to statistically separate the significance of ADHD and autism for mental health outcomes due to their co-occurrence.”
Ms Hargitay, PhD researcher at Bath, added: “Our goal was to accurately measure the extent to which ADHD personality traits relate to poor mental health while statistically accounting for autistic traits.”
The new research – a collaborative effort between the universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff and King’s College London – was published this week in Scientific reports. It comes in the same month that two British TV personalities – Johnny Vegas and Sue Perkins – opened up about their recent ADHD diagnoses.
“The condition affects so many people – children and adults alike – and the fact that more people are willing to talk about it is welcome,” said Ms Hargitay. “The hope is that with increased awareness will come more research in this area and better resources to support individuals in better managing their mental health.”
Excessively active, as if driven by a motor
The study used a large, nationally representative sample of adults from the UK population. All participants completed gold-standard questionnaires—one on autistic traits and one on ADHD traits—in response to statements such as “I often get very absorbed in one thing” and “How often do you feel hyperactive and compelled to do things, like you’re being motorized?”
The researchers found that the ADHD traits were highly predictive of the severity of symptoms of anxiety and depression: the higher the levels of the ADHD traits, the more likely a person was to experience severe mental health symptoms. Through innovative analytical techniques, the study authors also confirmed that having more ADHD personality was more closely related to anxiety and depression than autistic traits.
These results were replicated in computerized simulations with a 100% “reproducibility rate”. This showed, with great confidence, that ADHD traits are almost certainly associated with more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults than autistic traits.
Transforming the focus of research and clinical practice
Ms Hargitay said: “Our findings suggest that research and clinical practice should shift some focus from autism to ADHD. This may help identify those most at risk of anxiety and depression so that preventive measures can be taken – such as supporting children and adults.” People with ADHD. Managing symptoms of ADHD – can be put in place early on to have a greater impact on improving people’s well-being.”
According to Dr Punit Shah, lead author and associate professor of psychology at Bath, another important aspect of the new study is that it advances scientific understanding of neurodevelopmental conditions.
“By addressing the shortcomings of previous research, our work provides new information about the complex links between neurodiversity and mental health in adults – an area that is often overlooked.
“More research is now needed to delve deeper into understanding why ADHD is associated with poorer mental health, particularly with regard to the mental processes that may drive people with ADHD traits to engage in anxious and depressive thinking.”
“Currently, there is a lack of funding for ADHD research – especially psychological research. This is especially evident when compared to the relatively high level of funds directed towards autism.
“As the evidence becomes clear that ADHD is not just a childhood condition but persists throughout life, we must adjust our research agendas to better understand ADHD in adulthood.”
Commenting on the new findings, Dr. Tony Floyd, CEO of ADHD, The Neurodiversity Foundation, said: “This research demonstrates clear evidence of the increased risk of mental health comorbidities associated with ADHD in adults. This is a step towards recognizing the broader impact of ADHD Unmanaged and untreated attention deficit We hope that this research will lead to more research in this area We also hope that it will lead to changes in the design and delivery of health services.
“The implications for the cost to the NHS of leaving ADHD untreated, and the need for better training of health practitioners in both primary and secondary care, are now becoming clearer. Of course there are other costs to consider – On the health, family life, employability and economic well-being of UK citizens with ADHD, these costs are often hidden but significant.
“This research from the University of Bath will add to a growing national debate and study the feasibility of a national review of health services for ADHD across a person’s lifespan.”