Risk factors associated with newly diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults: a retrospective case-control study

BMC Psychiatry, 2023


Knowledge of risk factors for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may facilitate early diagnosis; however, studies examining a broad range of potential risk factors for ADHD in adults are limited. This study aimed to identify risk factors associated with newly diagnosed ADHD among adults in the United States (US).


Eligible adults from the IQVIA PharMetrics® Plus database (10/01/2015-09/30/2021) were classified into the ADHD cohort if they had ≥ 2 ADHD diagnoses (index date: first ADHD diagnosis) and into the non-ADHD cohort if they had no observed ADHD diagnosis (index date: random date) with a 1:3 case-to-control ratio. Risk factors for newly diagnosed ADHD were assessed during the 12-month baseline period; logistic regression with stepwise variable selection was used to assess statistically significant association. The combined impact of selected risk factors was explored using common patient profiles.


A total of 337,034 patients were included in the ADHD cohort (mean age 35.2 years; 54.5% female) and 1,011,102 in the non-ADHD cohort (mean age 44.0 years; 52.4% female). During the baseline period, the most frequent mental health comorbidities in the ADHD and non-ADHD cohorts were anxiety disorders (34.4% and 11.1%) and depressive disorders (27.9% and 7.8%). Accordingly, a higher proportion of patients in the ADHD cohort received antianxiety agents (20.6% and 8.3%) and antidepressants (40.9% and 15.8%). Key risk factors associated with a significantly increased probability of ADHD included the number of mental health comorbidities (odds ratio [OR] for 1 comorbidity: 1.41; ≥2 comorbidities: 1.45), along with certain mental health comorbidities (e.g., feeding and eating disorders [OR: 1.88], bipolar disorders [OR: 1.50], depressive disorders [OR: 1.37], trauma- and stressor-related disorders [OR: 1.27], anxiety disorders [OR: 1.24]), use of antidepressants (OR: 1.87) and antianxiety agents (OR: 1.40), and having ≥ 1 psychotherapy visit (OR: 1.70), ≥ 1 specialist visit (OR: 1.30), and ≥ 10 outpatient visits (OR: 1.51) (all p < 0.05). The predicted risk of ADHD for patients with treated anxiety and depressive disorders was 81.9%.


Mental health comorbidities and related treatments are significantly associated with newly diagnosed ADHD in US adults. Screening for patients with risk factors for ADHD may allow early diagnosis and appropriate management.

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Schein J, Cloutier M, Gauthier-Loiselle M, Bungay R, Arpin E, Guerin A, Childress A