Not only do those with ADHD tend to have a lower life expectancy than those who do not, but those with ADHD are over twice as likely to die prematurely in accidents, according to a recent study. Published in The Lancet and led by Søren Dalsgaard from Aarhus University in Denmark, the large nationwide cohort study found that ADHD is the most common cause of death in those with the disorder, especially among women. The study is revolutionary for being the first to shed light on the relationship between ADHD and premature death.
The study followed almost 2 billion individuals from the Danish national registers, including over 32,000 individuals with ADHD. The maximum age of the individuals was 32 years and it followed the lives of these individuals from their first birthdays to 2013. During this study, 107 of those diagnosed with ADHD died, making them twice as likely to die prematurely as those without the disorder, even after controlling for other factors known to affect lifespan, such as sex, age, family history of psychiatric problem, parental education and maternal and paternal age.
Increased risk of death in those with ADHD was primarily the result of deaths of unnatural causes. Over half of these deaths resulted from accidents; 42 deaths among the 79 individuals for whom the cause of death was known. The risk of premature death increased with age of diagnosis. For example, while children diagnosed prior to the age of 6 were twice as likely to die an unnatural death than their counterparts, those diagnosed at age 18 or older were over four times as likely to die a premature death relative to those without ADHD of the same age. The study also revealed that females with ADHD exhibited a higher relative risk of such deaths compared to males with ADHD. More troubling yet, ADHD tends to exhibit comorbidity with other psychiatric problems such as substance abuse disorders and oppositional defiant disorder, and individuals with all three of these were over eight times more likely to die premature deaths than those without ADHD or the other disorders.