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Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Sex, and Obesity

A Longitudinal Population-Based Study
Published:February 04, 2016DOI:



      To assess obesity rates during childhood and young adulthood in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and age- and sex-matched controls derived from a population-based birth cohort because cross-sectional studies suggest an association between ADHD and obesity.

      Patients and Methods

      Study subjects included patients with childhood ADHD (n=336) and age- and sex-matched non-ADHD controls (n=665) from a 1976 to 1982 birth cohort (N=5718). Height, weight, and stimulant treatment measurements were abstracted retrospectively from medical records documenting care provided from January 1, 1976, through August 31, 2010. The association between ADHD and obesity in patients with ADHD relative to controls was estimated using Cox models.


      Patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder were 1.23 (95% CI, 1.00-1.50; P<.05) times more likely to be obese during the follow-up period than were non-ADHD controls. This association was not statistically significant in either sex (female participants: hazard ratio [HR], 1.49; 95% CI, 0.98-2.27; P=.06; male participants HR, 1.17, 95% CI, 0.92-1.48; P=.20). Patients with ADHD who were not obese as of the date ADHD research diagnostic criteria were met were 1.56 (95% CI, 1.14-2.13; P<.01) times more likely to be obese during the subsequent follow-up than were controls. This association was statistically significant in female study subjects (HR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.13-3.60; P=.02), but not in male participants (HR, 1.41; 95% CI, 0.97-2.05; P=.07). A higher proportion of patients with ADHD were obese after the age of 20 years compared with non-ADHD controls (34.4% vs 25.1%; P=.01); this difference was observed only in female patients (41.6% vs 19.2%). There were no differences in obesity rates between stimulant-treated and nontreated patients with ADHD.


      Childhood ADHD is associated with obesity during childhood and young adulthood in females. Treatment with stimulant medications is not associated with the development of obesity up to young adulthood.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), BMI (body mass index), HR (hazard ratio), IQR (interquartile range)
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