Study Shows 2 in 5 Adults with ADHD are in Exceptional Mental Health

Physical activity, marital status among factors contributing to complete mental health among participants.

A study found that 2 in 5 adults, or 42%, with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are in exceptional mental health.

The study aimed to evaluate the prevalence and chances of achieving Corey Keys, PhD’s, framework of complete mental health in individuals with ADHD compared to individuals without ADHD, and to identify the specific factors contributing to complete mental health among individuals with ADHD. The framework of complete mental health includes measures of eudaimonic and hedonic well-being, and considers the role of the absence of mental illness.1 In order to achieve complete mental health, individuals in this study had to report that they had not experienced any mental illness (ie, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders) in the previous year; that they had experienced almost daily life satisfaction or happiness in the past month; and that they had experienced high levels of psychological and social well-being in the past month.2

In the study, investigators used 2 subsets from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-MH) and analyzed a nationally representative sample of Canadians who reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD (n = 480). They compared this sample to 12,099 respondents without ADHD from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental System.1 The study found that 42% of individuals with ADHD had achieved complete mental health, compared to 73.8% of individuals without ADHD.2

“Although we were surprised and delighted to find that 2 in 5 adults with ADHD were in excellent mental health, they are still lagging far behind their peers without ADHD, for whom 74% were thriving. There is still a long way to go in closing the mental health gap between those with and without ADHD,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, professor in the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging, in a press release. “This study calls attention to this gap, while also emphasizing potential mechanisms to reduce this discrepancy.”

The study showed that the individuals with ADHD who had achieved complete mental health were more likely to be married, physically active, and free from chronic pain; to have no lifetime history of anxiety or depression; to have no history of experiencing physical abuse during childhood; and to use spirituality to cope with the challenges of daily life.2 The study also found that women with ADHD were significantly—41%—less likely than men with ADHD to achieve complete mental health (OR = 0.59; 95% CI = 0.36, 0.97).1

“The finding that female respondents were less likely to be in flourishing mental health highlights the specific vulnerabilities among women with ADHD,” said coauthor Andie MacNeil, MSW, a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, in a press release. “This aligns with other research that has found higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among women with ADHD, which may partially explain this gap in mental well-being.”

References

1. Fuller-Thompson E, Ko BKD, Carrique L, MacNeil A. Flourishing despite attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a population based study of mental well-being. Int J Appl Posit Psychol. 2022.

2. University of Toronto. Two in five adults with ADHD are in excellent mental health. News release. Newswise. April 12, 2022. Accessed May 2, 2022.