Category: ADHD - Adult
Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes, including increased alcohol and tobacco use, diminished nutrition and exercise, and incidence of chronic diseases. However, these findings come almost exclusively from research of child and adult populations under the age of 50. Just one epidemiological study on physical health and lifestyle in older adults with ADHD has noted associations between ADHD and a number of chronic diseases, but did not find correlations between ADHD and lifestyle variables, such as smoking habits and alcohol consumption (Semeijn et al., 2013). Therefore, the present study adds to this limited literature by examining varied potential health concerns in older individuals with ADHD.
Participants took part in an experimental trial focusing on antioxidant use. Adults of all ages in the host community in the Southeastern United States were invited to participate via various advertisements. A total of 1,044 participants took part; a subsample of 426 is included herein that was 50 years of age or older (M = 61.3, SD = 8.3). Participants were assigned to a trait-based ADHD group (n = 25) if they met a research criterion of +1.5 SD for total, age-referenced current ADHD symptoms (Barkley & Murphy, 2006). ADHD and normal control (NC, n = 401) groups did not vary by sex, age, or education. All participants completed an extensive battery of questions that dichotomously tapped physical health indicators, including a total of 16 behaviors (e.g., current smoking, high fat or low fiber diet, physical inactivity, high alcohol use) and medical outcomes (high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, excess weight, and chronic and acute conditions, e.g., cancers, thyroid problems, bone breaks). Participants also completed the World Health Organization Quality of Life (QOL) survey (Bonomi et al., 2000), from which the Physical QOL scale score was used herein.
Chi-square tests were used to examine potential group differences in endorsement of these negative health indicators. Two statistically significant differences were in favor of those without ADHD; those in the ADHD group more often endorsed health-impacting stress (45.8%, vs. NC 24.1%, p = .02) and a history of thyroid problems (36%, vs. NC 16%). In addition, a two-tailed t-test found those in the ADHD group to have poorer physical QOL (d = -2.01, p < .001). While relatively few specific negative health indicators were associated with ADHD traits in this sample of older adults, the findings still suggest that physical factors impact the positive adjustment of this group, even more so than in the general older adult population. Limitations and future directions will be discussed further.
Hadley Brochu– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Will Canu– Professor, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Anne Sorrell– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Joshua Broman-Fulks– Professor, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
David Nieman– Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina