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30 Jul 2016

Fuller-Thomson E et al. Child Care Health Dev 2016; 42: 918-927.

ADHD symptoms are more likely to persist into adulthood in women than in men, and can have a life-long and profound impact on women. This study, conducted in Canada, revealed lower levels of income and education, as well as a higher prevalence of mental and physical health problems, in women with ADHD compared with those without the disorder.

Using a combination of the World Health Organization-Composite International Diagnostic Interview and self-report, the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health was co-opted to gauge the sociodemographic characteristics and physical and mental health of women aged 20–39 years with ADHD (n=107) or without ADHD (n=3801).

Sociodemographic differences between the two groups of women were striking: compared with women without ADHD, those with ADHD were significantly more likely to be aged 20–29 years (63% vs 47%; p=0.002), more likely to have an income that could not meet basic expenses (37% vs 13%; p<0.001) and less likely to have a post-secondary-school degree (61% vs 72%; p=0.02).

Compared with women without ADHD, those with ADHD also had a significantly higher prevalence of mental and physical issues and adverse childhood experiences, including:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Lifetime drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Childhood physical abuse.

ADHD is underdiagnosed in women and girls, and this study was limited by the use of self-report to confirm a diagnosis of ADHD. However, the findings clearly indicate that ADHD has profound economic, physical and mental health burdens in women. Ideally, these results will prompt wider outreach programmes to help address these issues and improve the day-to-day lives of women with ADHD.

Read more about the negative impact of ADHD on women in Canada here

Fuller-Thomson E, Lewis DA, Agbeyaka SK. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder casts a long shadow: findings from a population-based study of adult women with self-reported ADHD. Child Care Health Dev 2016; 42: 918-927.

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