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Accidents are one of the biggest causes of death among people with ADHD

The risk of premature death among people with the disorder is more than twice the level of those without.

Image: daydreaming child via Shutterstock

PEOPLE WITH ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are twice as likely to die prematurely than those without the disorder, according to new research.

The cause of death is often an accident.

In the first study of its kind, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark analysed data from 2 million people, 32,000 of which had ADHD.

The results, published today in The Lancet, show that people with ADHD were twice as likely to die prematurely, even after adjusting for other risk factors.

Health agencies are now being called on to dedicate more resources to the disorder.

Girls and women had a higher risk than men of premature death, and the risk increased with age for both genders.

If other disorders linked in previous studies to ADHD, such as substance abuse or antisocial behaviour disorders, were also present, this increased the risk of dying early.

A total of 107 individuals involved in the study, with 42 of these deaths (out of 79 were cause of death was known) due to an accident.

Lead researcher Dr Søren Dalsgaard said.

Our findings emphasise the importance diagnosing ADHD early, especially in girls and women, and treating any co-existing antisocial and substance use disorders.

Stephen Faraone, an expert in child psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in New York, said that following questions over the validity of ADHD as a disorder, this research should be be used by police makers as research to “allocate a fair share of health care and research resources”.

“For clinicians, early identification and treatment should become the rule rather than the exception,” he said, writing in a linked comment.

Although talk of premature death will worry parents and patients, they can seek solace in the knowledge that the absolute risk for premature death is low and that this and other risks can be greatly reduced with evidenced-based treatments for the disorder.

Read: Toxins in everyday items linked with ADHD and other brain development disorders >

Column: Living with ADHD is difficult – but mostly because of the lack of support you face >

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Nicky Ryan

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