Children with ADHD have higher risk of teenage obesity and physical inactivity

March 4, 2014

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become obese and sedentary teenagers, according to new research.

Previous studies have suggested a link between ADHD and , but whether one leads to the other is unclear. One way to better understand the link is to follow children through to adolescence.

The new study, which followed almost 7000 children in Finland, found that those who had ADHD symptoms at age eight had significantly higher odds of being obese at age 16. Children who had ADHD symptoms were also less physically active as teenagers.

Researchers from Imperial College London reported the findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

ADHD affects two to five per cent of school-aged children and young people in the UK and is related to poor school performance. The main symptoms are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is complex to diagnose, but screening questionnaires can give an indication of a probable diagnosis, based on a child's behaviour.

Conduct disorder, a condition related to ADHD and linked to tendencies towards delinquency, rulebreaking and violence, was also found to increase risk of obesity and physical inactivity among teens.

The nine per cent of children in the study who had positive results on an ADHD screener at age 8 were at higher risk of obesity at age 16. Senior author, visiting Professor Alina Rodriguez, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: "Obesity is a growing problem that we need to watch out for in all children and , but these findings suggest that it's particularly important for children with ADHD.

"It appears that lack of physical activity might be a key factor. We think encouraging children with ADHD to be more physically active could improve their behaviour problems as well as helping them to stay a healthy weight, and studies should be carried out to test this theory."

Furthermore, children who were less inclined to take part in play as 8 year-olds were more likely to have inattention as teenagers. Binge eating, which was also investigated as a possible factor that could contribute to the link with obesity, was not more prevalent in children with ADHD.

According to Public Health England around 28% of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood and adolescence is linked to a wide variety of short- and long-term health risks, including type 2 diabetes, heart and circulatory disease, and mental health conditions.

The study used questionnaires completed by parents and teachers to assess 6934 children for ADHD and conduct disorder symptoms at ages eight and 16.

Body mass index was calculated based on parents' reports of their 's height and weight at age seven. At age 16, the participants had health examinations that recorded their height, weight, waist and hip measurements.

Explore further: CDC: More than one in 10 kids diagnosed with ADHD

More information: N. Khalife et al, 'Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms are Risk Factors for Obesity and Physical Inactivity in Adolescence', Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2014), DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.01.009

Related Stories

CDC: More than one in 10 kids diagnosed with ADHD

November 26, 2013
(HealthDay)—More than one in 10 children and adolescents are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an increase of 42 percent in less than a decade, according to a study published online Nov. 25 ...

Study finds racial and ethnic disparities in ADHD diagnosis

February 18, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Black children and children in homes where a language other than English is spoken are less likely to receive an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis by school entry, despite being ...

First long-term study reveals link between childhood ADHD and obesity

May 20, 2013
A new study conducted by researchers at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center found men diagnosed as children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were twice as likely to be obese in a 33-year ...

Continued increases in ADHD diagnoses and treatment with medication among US children

November 22, 2013
A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) found that an estimated two million more children in the United States (U.S.) have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity ...

Can breastfeeding protect against ADHD?

May 14, 2013
Breastfeeding has a positive impact on the physical and mental development of infants. A new study suggests that breastfeeding may protect against the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in ...

ADHD linked to social and economic disadvantage

November 26, 2013
Scientists have found evidence of a link between social and economic status and childhood attention deficit disorder (ADHD) in the UK.

Recommended for you

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...

Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017
Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

School year 'relative age' causing bias in ADHD diagnosis, says research

October 9, 2017
Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

Eye movements reveal temporal expectation deficits in ADHD

September 12, 2017
A technique that measures tiny movements of the eyes may help scientists better understand and perhaps eventually improve assessment of ADHD, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.