Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder predicts adolescent depression

November 1, 2010

Early childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder predisposes to adolescent depression and suicidal ideation, according to published research.

Early childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) predisposes to adolescent depression and suicidal ideation, according to research published in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The risk of later depression in young children with ADHD is greater in girls, young children with concurrent symptoms of conduct disorder, and children whose mothers were depressed, the study shows.

Researchers studied 125 children aged 4 to 6 years who met the criteria for ADHD and 123 matched controls without ADHD, following them for a maximum of 14 years. All the children lived with their biological mothers, who were assessed for depression at the beginning of the study.

ADHD at 4 to 6 years increased the risk of major depression or dysthymia by more than 15 times. Girls with ADHD were at twice the risk of subsequent depression as boys with ADHD, and maternal depression increased the risk of later depression by more than 7 times.

Maternal depression increased the risk of suicidal ideation by almost 9 times in children with ADHD. Mother-reported symptoms of conduct disorder in the first year of ADHD diagnosis predicted later depression. According to the researchers, the study suggests that it is possible to identify children with ADHD at very young ages who are at very high risk for later depression and suicidal behavior.