February 25, 2015
2 min read

Adult women with ADHD more likely to die prematurely from accidents

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Women with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have a significantly greater risk for accidental, premature death, according to data published in the Lancet Psychiatry.

“Our findings emphasize the importance [of] diagnosing ADHD early, especially in girls and women, and treating any co-existing antisocial and substance use disorders. It is however important to emphasize that although the relative risk of premature death is increased in ADHD, the absolute risk is low,” Søren Dalsgaard, PhD, of the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University, Denmark, and The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a press release.

Dalsgaard and colleagues obtained patient data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and the Danish National Patient Register. They followed 1,922,248 patients up to 32 years, from their first birthdays or Jan. 1, 1995 (whichever came last), until death, emigration from Denmark, or June 30, 2013 (whichever came first), according to data.

At follow-up, 5,580 patients with ADHD had died, representing a mortality rate of 2.24 per 10,000 person-years. They also observed a mortality of 5.85 per 10,000 person years among those with ADHD compared with 2.21 in those without ADHD (P < .0001), according to data.

Of those with ADHD, 5,417 also had a comorbid diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, and 3,946 had a comorbid substance use disorder, according to researchers.

Girls and women with ADHD who did not have comorbid disorders, had an adjusted mortality rate ratio (MRR) of 2.85 (95% CI, 1.56-4.71), compared with boys and men (MRR = 1.27; 95% CI, 0.89-1.76).

Those who were diagnosed with ADHD aged younger than 6 years had an MRR of 1.86 (95% CI, 0.93-3.27); aged 6 to 17 years had an MRR of 1.58 (95% CI, 1.21-2.03), and those aged 18 years or older had an MRR of 4.25 (95% CI, 3.05-5.78), according to data.

In an accompanying commentary, Stephen V. Faraone, PhD, of the departments of psychiatry, neuroscience and physiology at the SUNY Upstate Medical University, wrote that the validity of ADHD as a medical disorder has been challenged for some time.

“Policy makers should take heed of these data and allocate a fair share of health care and research resources to people with ADHD,” Faraone wrote. “For clinicians, early identification and treatment should become the rule rather than the exception.” – by Samantha Costa

Disclosure: Dalsgaard reports no relevant financial disclosures. The study was supported by a grant from the Lundbeck Foundation. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.