Are kids with ADHD more likely to have unhealthy habits?
Healthy lifestyle choices can benefit any child, but they may have increased effects when it comes to battling the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new report.
The research team found that children with ADHD have significantly more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor water consumption and sleep and excessive screen time, than their peers.
Kathleen Holton, PhD, MPH, lead study author and assistant professor in the department of health sciences at the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at American University in Washington, DC, says she believes the study’s findings are valuable to clinical practice.
“Healthy behavior change could be an important topic of conversation between pediatricians and parents during appointments,” says Holton. “My hope is that pediatricians will inquire about these healthy lifestyle behaviors and encourage parents to implement changes over time. Most pediatricians are already discussing some lifestyle behaviors (such as reducing screen time) with parents; however, greater benefit may be realized from looking at all these lifestyle behaviors together.”
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is increasingly linked to poor health outcomes, and researchers believe ADHD may be exacerbated by unhealthy behaviors that contribute to those poor health outcomes.
The study examined children aged 7 to 11 years with well-characterized ADHD. The children were recruited from the community through advertisements and mass mailings, and potential participants were screened with lifestyle questionnaires targeting healthy lifestyle behaviors such as water versus sweetened beverage consumption, multivitamin use, screen time, physical activity, and sleep.
Researchers then identified the association between ADHD status and total healthy lifestyle behaviors based on multivariable ordered logistic regression.
The research team found a “robust association” of ADHD with a less healthy lifestyle than children in the control group: Children with ADHD were almost twice as likely to have fewer healthy lifestyle behaviors, even after adjustment for age, sex, intelligence quotient, ADHD medication use, household income, and comorbid psychiatric disorders.
“These results underscore the importance of considering unhealthy lifestyle behaviors as a feature of ADHD that may be an important target for preventive or secondary intervention,” according to the report.”
In terms of physical health, children in the ADHD study group consumed less water, more sweetened beverages, and exercised less than their peers.