40% of Adults With ADHD Have Excellent Mental Health, Study Results Show

Analysis indicates that factors associated with psychological flourishing include being married and physically active, as well as free from chronic pain and anxiety and depression.

Two in 5 adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have excellent mental health otherwise, meaning that the participants reported almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month, freedom from mental illness in the previous year, and high levels of psychological and social well-being in the past month, according to the results of a new study published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology.

“This finding provides a very hopeful message for both individuals struggling with ADHD and their loved ones,” lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and director of the institute for Life Course and Aging , said in a statement.

“This research marks a paradigm shift,” she said. “Most previous research, including my own, has focused on mental illness among those with ADHD, so to focus on those who are thriving mentally is refreshing and very heartening.”

The investigators analyzed a nationally representative sample of 480 respondents with ADHD and 21,099 respondents without ADHD from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health. In the study, several factors were identified that were associated with no mental health issues among those with ADHD, and those who were free from chronic pain and had no lifetime history of anxiety or depression were more likely to be thriving.

“Our findings emphasize the importance of addressing comorbid mental health issues when providing care to individuals with ADHD,” study co-author Bradyn Ko, a recent graduate of the master of social work (MSW) program at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

“Those with ADHD who also struggle with depression and anxiety face substantial barriers to achieving complete mental health and may benefit from targeted care. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very promising intervention that has been shown to be effective for those with ADHD,” Ko said.

The other factors linked with no mental health issues include being married, being physically active, and using spirituality to cope with daily challenges.

“These results highlight potentially modifiable risk factors to support the well-being of adults with ADHD,” study co-author Lauren Carrique, a recent MSW graduate from the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

“When compared to being sedentary, engaging in optimal levels of physical activity approximately quadrupled the odds of complete mental health. This underlines the potential value of physical activity in helping individuals with ADHD achieve excellent mental health,” Carrique said.

The study also identified the specific subpopulations of adults with ADHD who may be less likely to have no mental health issues, such as women.

“The finding that female respondents were less likely to be in flourishing mental health highlights the specific vulnerabilities among women with ADHD,” study co-author Andie MacNeil, a recent Master of Social Work graduate from the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “This aligns with other research that has found higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among women with ADHD, which may partially explain this gap in mental well-being.”

As for the prevalence of having no other mental health issues among those without ADHD, the percentage was 73.8%, which was significantly higher than the 42.0% of individuals with ADHD who were had no other mental health issues.

Reference

Two in five adults with ADHD are in excellent mental health. EurekAlert! April 12, 2022. Accessed April 12, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/949461

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