Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnosis With Adolescent Quality of Life

Luise Kazda, Kevin McGeechan, Katy Bell, Rae Thomas, Alexandra Barratt

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Importance: Appropriate diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can improve some short-term outcomes in children and adolescents, but little is known about the association of a diagnosis with their quality of life (QOL).

Objective: To compare QOL in adolescents with and without an ADHD diagnosis.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study followed an emulated target trial design using prospective, observational data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a representative, population-based prospective cohort study with biennial data collection from 2006 to 2018 with 8 years of follow-up (ages 6-7 to 14-15 years). Propensity score matching was used to ensure children with and without ADHD diagnosis were well matched on a wide range of variables, including hyperactive/inattentive (H/I) behaviors. Eligible children were born in 1999 to 2000 or 2003 to 2004 and did not have a previous ADHD diagnosis. All incident ADHD cases were matched with controls. Data were analyzed from July 2021 to January 2022.

Exposures: Incident parent-reported ADHD diagnosis at age 6 to 7, 8 to 9, 10 to 11, 12 to 13, or 14 to 15.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Quality of life at age 14 to 15 was measured with Child Health Utility 9D (CHU9D) and 8 other prespecified, self-reported measures mapped to the World Health Organization's QOL domains. Pooled regression models were fitted for each outcome, with 95% CIs and P values calculated using bootstrapping to account for matching and repeat observations.

Results: Of 8643 eligible children, a total of 393 adolescents had an ADHD diagnosis (284 [72.2%] boys; mean [SD] age, 10.03 [0.30] years; mean [SD] H/I Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire score, 5.05 [2.29]) and were age-, sex-, and H/I score-matched with 393 adolescents without ADHD diagnosis at time zero. Compared with adolescents without diagnosis, those with an ADHD diagnosis reported similar QOL on CHU9D (mean difference, -0.03; 95% CI, -0.07 to 0.01; P = .10), general health (mean difference, 0.11; 95% CI, -0.04 to 0.27; P = .15), happiness (mean difference, -0.18; 95% CI, -0.37 to 0.00; P = .05), and peer trust (mean difference, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.00 to 1.30; P = .05). Diagnosed adolescents had worse psychological sense of school membership (mean difference, -2.58; 95% CI, -1.13 to -4.06; P < .001), academic self-concept (mean difference, -0.14; 95% CI, -0.02 to -0.26; P = .02), and self-efficacy (mean difference, -0.20; 95% CI, -0.05 to -0.33; P = .007); displayed more negative social behaviors (mean difference, 1.56; 95% CI, 0.55 to 2.66; P = .002); and were more likely to harm themselves (odds ratio, 2.53; 95% CI, 1.49 to 4.37; P < .001) than adolescents without diagnosis.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, ADHD diagnosis was not associated with any self-reported improvements in adolescents' QOL compared with adolescents with similar levels of H/I behaviors but no ADHD diagnosis. ADHD diagnosis was associated with worse scores in some outcomes, including significantly increased risk of self-harm. A large, randomized clinical trial with long-term follow-up is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2236364
Pages (from-to)E2236364
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022


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