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Meta-Analysis: Significant Association Between ADHD and Asthma

Researchers found a strong association between ADHD and asthma after studying the combined results from a meta-analysis and population-based study. Though it’s unclear whether the association is causal or due to shared factors, acknowledgement of the relationship could improve diagnostic delays for both conditions.



August 15, 2018

Results from two studies — a meta-analysis and a Swedish population-based study — show a significant association between attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and asthma, according to a study recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry.1

Awareness of this strong association may have a significant clinical and public health impact as ADHD specialists can refer patients with early forms of asthma, and asthma specialists can refer patients with early ADHD symptoms, “thus helping to reduce the diagnostic delay that is concern for both ADHD and asthma,” noted the researchers.

The meta-analysis included published and unpublished data from 49 datasets including 210,363 participants with ADHD and 3,115,168 without ADHD. This is “a substantial increase from the 5 or 6 datasets included in previous meta-analyses,” noted Jessica Agnew-Blais, Ph.D., from the genetic and developmental psychiatry center at King’s College in London, United Kingdom, in accompanying editorial.2

Since the studies included in the meta-analysis used different potential confounders to calculate the odds ratios (ORs) for the association between ADHD and asthma, researchers also conducted a population-based cohort study controlling for a wide range of shared risk factors including sex, year of birth, maternal age at birth, birthweight, gestational age, parental education, and family income. The Swedish population-based study included 1,575,377 individuals, 57,957 of whom had ADHD and 259,253 of whom had asthma.

In the meta-analysis, data indicated a significant relationship between ADHD and asthma: pooled unadjusted OR 1.66 (95% CI, 1.22-2.26) vs adjusted OR 1.53 (95% CI, 1.41-1.65). In the population-based study, the association remained significant after adjusting for sex and year of birth (OR 1.60, 95% CI, 1.57-1.63), and more so after adjusting for all confounders (OR 1.45; 95% CI, 1.41-1.48).

“Cortese and colleagues have provided robust evidence of a cross-sectional association between asthma and ADHD,” noted Dr. Agnew-Blais. The authors stressed that longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether this association is causal or due to shared factors. Dr. Agnew-Blais echoed this statement saying, “Clarification of the nature of this association is needed from future studies to identify potential pathways for prevention and treatment.”

Disclosure: This study was in part funded by Shire International GmbH. Henrik Larsson, Ph.D., has served as a speaker for Eli Lilly and Shire and has received research grants from Shire.


1Cortese S, Sun S, Zhang J, et al. Association between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis and a Swedish population-based study. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Jul 24. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30224-4

2Agnew-Blais J. Intriguing findings regarding the association between asthma and ADHD. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Jul 24. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30258-X

Updated on August 15, 2018

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  1. If you have trauma before 18 (childhood trauma) you quite often have adhd since trauma on the brain and adhd look pretty much scarily similiar, to the point where an individual learning about it realizes it’s hard to know what he defines as “himself” vs what is a result of the trauma.

    Those with trauma before 18 have according to the body keeps the score have a 50x chance of developing asthma.

    Adhd in a lot of cases is being shown to be developmental trauma.

    As I go through this learning my self, it truly occurs to us the impercisness of psychiatric labels and what does come out of it is that I could care less what labels we use, I care how I experience my life.

    Childhood trauma is literally our nations largest and most expensive public health crisis. It’s an issue that has been ignored 4 times in history for political and economic reasons. This will be the generation that puts a stop to that.

    Adhd is not a fixed trait in how a person experiences it. Genes may be fixed but even how those genes are epigenetically expressed are not.
    This is not to say it won’t to some extent still be around but what we are kinda finding is that. Ignoring in all of this is the various degrees of traumatic experiences that occur in kids lives.

    I encourage everyone to google “Anna age 8” to find a data driven plan based on continuous process improvement for fixing this issue in our communities.

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