College students who identify as a sexual and gender minority who also have ADHD may be at higher risk of functional impairments, substance use, and psychiatric comorbidities.
College students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and college students who identify as a sexuality and gender minority (SGM), respectively, have an increased risk for functional impairments, psychiatric comorbidities, and engagement in risky behaviors.1 According to Destiny Orantes, PhD, from Syracuse University, and her colleagues, research had not previously considered if these negative outcomes are further increased in SGM students who have ADHD. In a poster presentation at the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders (APSARD) 2022 virtual conference, Orantes and her colleagues shared their findings from their recent research on the topic.
The study aimed to examine the prevalence of ADHD in SGM college students, on top of assessing functional impairments, psychiatric comorbidities, and engagement in risky behaviors in 4 groups: 1) SGM students with ADHD, 2) SGM students without ADHD, 3) non-SGM students with ADHD, and 4) non-SGM students without ADHD. Data from the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment 2019-2021 (ACHA-NCHA) III were used.
“This study used measures that collected information about demographic, diagnosis of psychiatric conditions, overall psychological well-being, level of distress, engagement in risky behaviors, and academic performance,” Orantes explained.
Orantes and her colleagues found ADHD prevalence was increased in SGM populations, 15% compared to 8% in non-SGM individuals. Additionally, the group of SGM students with ADHD reported the highest levels of functional impairments, substance use, and psychiatric comorbidities.
The research suggests, Orantes said, that future studies should consider the underlying reasons for high rates of SGM students with ADHD, and how best to reduce these negative outcomes. Specifically, treatment plans should take into account the separate difficulties students face from their ADHD diagnosis and their SGM identities, as well as how best to target the risky behaviors and comorbidities.
1. Auerbach RP, Mortier P, Bruffaerts R, et al. Mental disorder comorbidity and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys International College Student initiative. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2019;28(2):e1752.