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Evidence suggests that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or hyperkinetic disorder (HKD), may reduce quality of life in children, adolescents and adults.1-4 However, some positive aspects of ADHD have been reported.5,6 For example, a qualitative study of 8 individuals diagnosed with ADHD (21–50 years) reported improved functional abilities in areas including interpersonal skills, motivation, organisation and concentration span as a result of their ADHD.6

Impact of ADHD in childhood/adolescence

A large, cross-sectional, European Lifetime Impairment Survey* (sponsored by Shire, now part of Takeda) in children and adolescents with ADHD found that ADHD had a strong or moderate effect on different aspects of daily life as reported by parents/carers (n=535).1

Figure: The negative impact of ADHD on everyday life, as reported by parents/caregivers of children/adolescents with ADHD in the European Lifetime Impairment Survey. Reproduced with kind permission from Caci H et al. Eur Psychiatry 2014; 29: 316-323.1

The negative impact of ADHD on everyday life, as reported by parents/caregivers of children/adolescents with ADHD in the European Lifetime Impairment Survey

The European Lifetime Impairment Survey (sponsored by Shire, now part of Takeda) also assessed the impact of ADHD in childhood and adolescence, as recalled by adults (n=588) compared with adults without ADHD (n=736).2

Figure: The effect of recalled childhood and adolescent experiences on everyday life, as reported by adults with and without ADHD in the European Lifetime Impairment Survey. Reproduced with kind permission from Caci H et al. CNS Spectr 2015; 20: 112–121.2

The effect of recalled childhood and adolescent experiences on everyday life, as reported by adults with and without ADHD in the European Lifetime Impairment Survey

Figure: The effect of recalled childhood and adolescent experiences on everyday life, as reported by adults with and without ADHD in the European Lifetime Impairment Survey. Reproduced with kind permission from Caci H et al. CNS Spectr 2015; 20: 112–121.2

The effect of recalled childhood and adolescent experiences on everyday life, as reported by adults with and without ADHD

Impact on quality of life may persist into adulthood

Preliminary evidence from several small studies is also indicative of impaired quality of life in adults with ADHD.3,4,7

  • In an Icelandic study of 369 university students (aged 18–53 years), a negative relationship was found between global life satisfaction, ADHD symptoms and associated problems, such as emotional and social function.3
  • In addition, in a small US study of 33 medical students (age not reported) with ADHD, ADHD-related quality of life and life productivity were found to negatively correlate with the severity of ADHD symptoms (AAQoL total score: r=0.395; p=0.02).7
  • Finally, in a small US study of college students with ADHD (n=37; mean age 24.3 years), ADHD was associated with lower quality of life compared with control students with no history of ADHD (n=59; mean age 27.6 years).4

Positives of ADHD

Adults with ADHD report positive aspects of the disorder.5

For some adults with ADHD, the disorder may not be perceived as wholly negative. As part of a series of European and North American focus groups (sponsored by Shire, now part of Takeda), 108 adults with ADHD were asked whether or not they would agree to their ADHD being “cured” or “taken away”, with 35% not agreeing. Many patients indicated that aspects of their ADHD are important for their personality, e.g. creativity.5

Some adults with ADHD may be high functioning and may not present with a typical pattern of functional impairments in their daily life. In addition, some patients may develop adaptive or compensatory skills to mask the overt behavioural problems associated with ADHD, and may find work that is well suited to their symptom profile. However, although some patients with ADHD may excel in certain aspects of their lives, they may still be impaired in others such as routine/mundane tasks e.g. paying bills, looking after the house or developing stable social relationships.8

 

*This survey was an online, cross-sectional, opinion-based survey conducted in adults and designed to assess experiences of ADHD in childhood and adulthood (e.g. impact on work, social life and relationships), and experiences of impairment and general well-being in childhood/adolescence. It was conducted in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK2

  1. Caci H, Doepfner M, Asherson P, et al. Daily life impairments associated with self-reported childhood/adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and experiences of diagnosis and treatment: results from the European Lifetime Impairment Survey. Eur Psychiatry 2014; 29: 316-323.
  2. Caci H, Asherson P, Donfrancesco R, et al. Daily life impairments associated with childhood/adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as recalled by adults: results from the European Lifetime Impairment Survey. CNS Spectr 2015; 20: 112-121.
  3. Grenwald-Mayes G. Relationship between current quality of life and family of origin dynamics for college students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Atten Disord 2002; 5: 211-222.
  4. O’Callaghan P, Sharma D. Severity of symptoms and quality of life in medical students with ADHD. J Atten Disord 2014; 18: 654-658.
  5. Brod M, Pohlman B, Lasser R, et al. Comparison of the burden of illness for adults with ADHD across seven countries: a qualitative study. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2012; 10: 47.
  6. Young S, Bramham J, Gray K, et al. The experience of receiving a diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in adulthood: a qualitative study of clinically referred patients using interpretative phenomenological analysis. J Atten Disord 2008; 11: 493-503.
  7. Gudjonsson GH, Sigurdsson JF, Eyjolfsdottir GA, et al. The relationship between satisfaction with life, ADHD symptoms, and associated problems among university students. J Atten Disord 2009; 12: 507-515.
  8. Kooij JJS, Bijlenga D, Salerno L, et al. Updated European Consensus Statement on diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD. Eur Psychiatry 2019; 56: 14-34.
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