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A 9-Year Follow-Up of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in a Population Sample

J Clin Psychiatry 2019;80(3):18m12642

Background: Prior follow-up studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have mostly been from North America. They have provided a good deal of information about ADHD, but whether these results generalize to population samples and to other countries is not certain. Most prior studies have also not assessed predictors of possible new onsets of ADHD in non-ADHD youth or the validity of subthreshold forms of the disorder.

Methods: 1,012 families were recruited at baseline, when a telephone interview assessed a child in the 6–12 years age range. The interview covered symptoms of ADHD, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder as well as family living situation, school performance, sleep disturbance, eating habits, use of supplemental iron, and history of ADHD treatment. Nine years later, the persistence of ADHD and its impairments and the emergence of new conditions were assessed. DSM-5 diagnostic criteria were used to diagnose ADHD.

Results: 492 of the 1,012 participants seen at baseline were followed up 9 years later, at a mean age of 18 years. At follow-up, 16.7% of the children diagnosed with ADHD at baseline met full criteria for ADHD and 11.1% met criteria for subthreshold ADHD, yielding a persistence rate of 27.8%. Among children not diagnosed with ADHD at baseline, 1.1% met criteria for ADHD at follow-up. The persistence of ADHD and new onsets of ADHD were predicted by several baseline clinical features and by a family history of ADHD.

Conclusions: We replicated predictors of the persistence of ADHD found in prior studies and provide new data about predictors of new ADHD onsets in the population. Our findings about subthreshold ADHD support a dimensional conceptualization of the disorder, highlighting the potential clinical utility of a subthreshold diagnostic category. This study also contributes to the ongoing debate regarding adult-onset ADHD.