Two in five adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder say their mental health is excellent, which is significantly lower than people without the disorder, but still an encouraging finding, according to the authors of a new study.
Their analysis of a Canadian government mental health survey found that 42% of 480 respondents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) termed their mental health as excellent.
That compared to 74% of more than 21,000 people without ADHD.
“This finding provides a very hopeful message for both individuals struggling with ADHD and their loved ones,” said lead study author Esme Fuller-Thomson. She is director of the University of Toronto Institute for Life Course and Aging.
“This research marks a paradigm shift,” Fuller-Thomson said in a university news release. “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.”
To be considered in excellent mental health, respondents had to be free of mental illness (including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance use disorders) in the previous year, have almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month, and have high levels of social and mental well-being in the past month.
Several factors were associated with excellent mental health among people with ADHD: no chronic pain; no history of depression or anxiety; being married; being physically active; and using spirituality to cope with daily challenges, the investigators found.
The report was published online recently in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology.
The researchers also found that women with ADHD were less likely to have excellent mental health than their male counterparts.
“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,” said study co-author Andie MacNeil, a recent master of social work graduate from the University of Toronto.
Despite being “surprised and delighted” to find that two in five adults with ADHD were in excellent mental health, Fuller-Thomson said 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,” she said.
There’s more on ADHD at the American Academy of Family Physicians.
SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, April 12, 2022