ADHD News & Research

Study: COVID-19 Disproportionately Harms Youth with ADHD

COVID-19 has increased the incidence of sleep problems, family conflict, fear of infection, and trouble with remote learning among children with ADHD, according to new research.

January 31, 2022 

COVID-19 has disproportionately damaged the lives and behaviors of children with ADHD, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1 Though children with ADHD are no more likely than their peers to test positive for COVID-19, they are more likely to experience pandemic-related sleep problems, family conflict, fear of infection, and academic setbacks, the research found.

A groundbreaking study on the broader mental health implications of the pandemic, the research examined 620 youth with ADHD and 614 individually matched controls who participated in the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study to determine their risk for COVID-19 and their differing experiences with pandemic life, among other factors.

Though their caregivers reported observing significantly more COVID-19 symptoms, children with ADHD were no more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than were children without the disorder.  When compared to controls, children with ADHD were more likely to break rules related to COVID-19 restrictions and to experience the following:

  • greater sleep problems
  • greater fear of infection
  • increased family conflict
  • trouble with remote learning 
  • inadequate preparation for the subsequent school year

No significant differences were found between the two groups regarding using screens, engaging in physical exercise, and following a daily schedule.

The authors of the study found that children with ADHD were less responsive to protective environmental variables like parental monitoring and school engagement, and they concluded that students with ADHD may need more specialized support during in-person school. Children with ADHD may also benefit from services that promote greater family-school collaboration, as well as school interventions during later stages of the pandemic and in the transition to post-pandemic functioning.

1Rosenthal E, Franklin-Gillette S, Jung HJ, et al. Impact of COVID-19 on Youth With ADHD: Predictors and Moderators of Response to Pandemic Restrictions on Daily Life. Journal of Attention Disorders. December 2021. doi:10.1177/10870547211063641