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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Kids With ADHD Often Have Other Problems

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Often Complicated by Learning Disabilities, Behavioral Problems, Depression, and Anxiety
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 7, 2011 -- Unfocused, hyperactive children are often dealing with a host of other problems that hinder their progress in school and hurt their relationships, a new study finds.

The research, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, finds that nearly 70% of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, have at least one other mental or physical problem, like a learning disability, conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, or difficulty with hearing or speech.

And about one out of five children with ADHD had three or more of those problems, increasing the odds that they would lag in school.

“ADHD is not an inconsequential condition,” says Mark L. Wolraich, MD, a pediatrician who is director of the Child Study Center at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. “The outcomes clearly show that they’re going to do more poorly in school; they’re going to have more accidents; and they’re going to get into more legal trouble.”

“It’s not just a bothersome condition that kids are going to grow out of as adolescents,” says Wolraich, an ADHD expert who was not involved in the research.

ADHD: A Complicated Picture

For the study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles surveyed the parents of nearly 62,000 school-aged children nationwide in 2007.

Kids were determined to have ADHD if their parents answered yes to two questions: Has a doctor ever diagnosed your child with ADHD? If so, does the child currently have ADHD?

Parents were then asked if their children had any of 10 other disorders, including learning disabilities, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, speech problems, autism, hearing problems, epilepsy or seizures, vision problems, or Tourette’s syndrome.

About 8% of children in the study had been diagnosed with ADHD. That translates to about 4 million cases of ADHD in children aged 6 to 17 in the U.S., researchers said.

Compared to children without any reported attention problems, children with ADHD were significantly more likely to face a host of mental and physical health problems.

For example, even after researchers filtered the potential influences of characteristics like age, gender, race, household income, and the parents’ educational levels and marital status, children with ADHD were nearly eight times more likely than children without ADHD to have learning disabilities, nearly 13 times more likely to have conduct disorders, more than seven times more likely to have anxiety, and more than eight times more likely to have depression.

Children from low-income families were about 40% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to children from households with annual incomes of more than four times the federal poverty level -- about $88,000 annually for a family of four.

Being poor also made it more likely that children would have more associated medical conditions.

About 30% of children from low-income homes had three or more complicating conditions in addition to their ADHD, compared to just 8% of children from more affluent homes.

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