42% of adults with ADHD have “excellent” mental health

adults with adhd, mental health

Adults with ADHD are shown to flourish when they are married, physically active, and free from chronic pain and other mental health issues

A representative study finds that two in five adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) were in excellent mental health.

“Excellent” mental health was defined as participants with freedom from mental illness in the previous year – such as substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, suicidality – almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month, and high levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month.

ADHD is a condition which can make people restless, unable to concentrate, act without thinking, develop poor organisational skills, and more. If left untreated, ADHD can develop poor lifestyle habits and choices – subpopulations of adults with ADHD who may be less likely to be in complete mental health can include women.

Factors associated with psychological flourishing in adults with ADHD can include being married, being physically active, and being free from chronic pain and other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Individuals who are free from chronic pain, depression or anxiety are likely to be thrive

Published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, investigators examined a nationally representative sample of 480 adults with ADHD and 21,099 adults without ADHD from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

From this, they found that the factors that were associated with complete mental flourishing include being married, being physically active, and using spirituality to cope with daily challenges.

Co-author Bradyn Ko, said: “Our findings emphasize the importance of addressing comorbid mental health issues when providing care to individuals with ADHD.

“Those with ADHD who also struggle with depression and anxiety face substantial barriers to achieving complete mental health, and may benefit from targeted care. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a very promising intervention that has been shown to be effective for those with ADHD.”

Lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto, said: “This finding provides a very hopeful message for both individuals struggling with ADHD and their loved ones.

“This research marks a paradigm shift. Most previous research, including my own, has focused on mental illness among those with ADHD so to focus on those who are thriving mentally is refreshing and very heartening.”

The study found that of the people without ADHD, 74% were thriving

However, of the adults without ADHD, the complete mental health was at 73.8% – which was significantly higher than the 42% of adults with ADHD who were in complete mental health.

Co-author Lauren Carrique, a MSW graduate, said: “These results highlight potentially modifiable risk factors to support the well-being of adults with ADHD.

“When compared to being sedentary, engaging in optimal levels of physical activity approximately quadrupled the odds of complete mental health. This underlines the potential value of physical activity in helping individuals with ADHD achieve excellent mental health.”

Co-author Andie MacNeil, a graduate from the University of Toronto added: “The finding that female respondents were less likely to be in flourishing mental health highlights the specific vulnerabilities among women with ADHD.

“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.”

Fuller-Thomson, further said: “Although we were surprised and delighted to find that two in five 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.

“This study calls attention to this gap, while also emphasizing potential mechanisms to reduce this discrepancy.”

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