ADHD News & Research

Meta-Analysis: Childhood ADHD Increases Risk for Developing Psychotic Disorders

A diagnosis of ADHD in childhood is associated with an increased risk for developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, according to a new meta-analysis of 1.8 million participants.

March 2, 2021

Childhood ADHD is linked to a higher risk for developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry.1

The meta-analysis included 12 studies with 1.8 million participants including people diagnosed with ADHD before the age of 18, as well as a control group and a group without any psychiatric diagnosis. Researchers excluded studies involving individuals with bipolar disorder and major depression with psychotic symptoms.

This meta-analysis revealed that a diagnosis of ADHD in childhood was linked to a significant increase in the risk for subsequent psychotic disorders with a pooled relative effect of 4.74. Researchers did not find significant between-group differences when comparing subgroups divided according to psychotic disorder or schizophrenia outcomes, cohort or case-control study design, and adjusted or unadjusted estimates.

“Many potential mechanisms could underlie the association between ADHD and subsequent psychosis,” the researchers wrote. “This association could be explained by a common developmental path with shared genetic susceptibility or social environmental factors. Prenatal factors, such as diabetes during pregnancy or neonatal complications, are also frequently reported as risk factors for both disorders.”

That being said, these findings are significant considering the major functional effect of psychotic disorders; they also underscore the importance of early detection and treatment for children with ADHD.

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1Nourredine M, Gering A, Fourneret P, et al. Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Childhood and Adolescence With the Risk of Subsequent Psychotic Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 24, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4799