ADHD Symptoms in Elderly

adhdAttention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) does not fade as you age. A recent study completed by researchers at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam found that ADHD currently affects approximately three percent of the population over age 60.[1]

Led by Marieke Michielsen, the researchers gave a questionnaire to 1, 494 people, aged 60 to 94 who were taking part in a long-term aging study.1 For the 231 participants who displayed the most symptoms, a more detailed diagnostic interview was conducted.1 The rate of ADHD was highest in those who were aged 60 to 70 years.1

“There are several possible explanations for this,” said Michielsen. “One may be that people’s symptoms of ADHD diminish with increasing age. Other explanations may be that the diagnostic interview used is not selective enough to detect ADHD in people over 70, or even that people with ADHD have a lower life expectancy compared to people without ADHD.”1

Michielsen added, “ADHD affects three percent to seven percent of school-aged children, and about 4.4 percent of adults. However, little is known about ADHD in old age and this is the first epidemiological study on ADHD in older people. With a prevalence of 2.8 percent, our study demonstrates that ADHD does not face or disappear with age.”1

ADHD is often recognized in childhood; therefore, few studies have focused on the condition in old age. Some go undiagnosed, and it has an impact on their lives.1

“Those afflicted often work below their intellectual level, have problems in relationships and social contacts, have problems organizing their daily lives, are more likely to have accidents, more often have co-existing psychiatric disorders, and more often display antisocial behavior compared with adults without ADHD,” said Michielsen.1

A more recent study of ADHD conducted by researchers from The Australian National University found that symptoms did decrease with age.1 The study compared ADHD symptoms and cognitive ability in 3,443 middle-aged to older-aged adults, aged 48 to 74.1 Older adults showed lower levels of ADHD symptoms; however, symptoms were associated with poorer cognitive performance in middle-aged adults.1

The researchers stated, “Our results suggest that ADHD symptoms decrease with age and that their relationships with co-occurring mood disorders and cognitive performance also change. Although symptoms of depression are lower in older adults, they are much stronger predictors of cognitive performance and likely mediate the effect of ADHD symptoms on cognition in this age group. These results highlight the need for age-appropriate diagnosis and treatment of co-existing ADHD and mood disorders, as it might contribute to promoting cognitive health in late-life.”1

[1] Collingwood, J. (2014). Attention Deficit Symptoms in Older People. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/04/15/attention-deficit-symptoms-in-older-people/68528.html

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