Adults with ADHD face elevated dementia risk

Dementia risk in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


A study from Rutgers University found that adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are almost three times more likely to get dementia than those without ADHD. They looked at over 100,000 older adults in Israel for 17 years to see if ADHD increases the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Even though over 3% of adults in the United States have ADHD, there hasn’t been much research on this group.

Beeri said, “By determining if adults with ADHD are at higher risk for dementia and if medications and lifestyle changes can affect chances, the outcomes of this research can be used to inform caregivers and clinicians better. The Krieger Klein Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Research at BHI and a faculty member of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research.”

Researchers looked at data from an extensive study with over 100,000 people followed from 2003 to 2020. They studied those with and without ADHD and watched how dementia developed as they got older. They found that adults with ADHD had a much higher risk of getting dementia, even when other factors like heart problems were considered. They think that ADHD in adults might affect how they cope with memory problems as they age.

Abraham Reichenberg, a professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and senior author of the study, said that physicians, clinicians, and caregivers who work with older adults should monitor ADHD symptoms and associated medications.

Stephen Levine, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa, said, “Symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity in old age shouldn’t be ignored and should be discussed with physicians.”

Furthermore, the study suggests that treating ADHD with psychostimulants might lower the risk of dementia in adults with ADHD. These medications can change the course of memory problems. However, the researchers believe that more research is needed to fully understand how these drugs might affect the risk of dementia in people with ADHD.

Other researchers involved in the study are Anat Rotstein and Galit Weinstein from the University of Haifa, Arad Kodesh from the University of Haifa and Meuhedet Health Services, Sven Sandin from the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and Brian Lee from Drexel University.

This study sheds light on an essential yet underexplored aspect of ADHD, as it has been noted that over 3% of the adult population in the United States has this condition. Yet, research in this area has been limited. The findings underscore the need for more comprehensive studies and potential interventions to address the increased risk of dementia in adults with ADHD.

Journal reference:

  1. Stephen Z. Levine, Anat Rotstein, et al., Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the Risk of Dementia. JAMA Network Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.38088.
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