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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Jan;21(1):39-49. doi: 10.1007/s00787-011-0230-0. Epub 2011 Nov 26.

Examining the relationship between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and overweight in children and adolescents.

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  • 1University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.


Although a higher prevalence of overweight/obesity was reported in clinical samples of patients with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), an association between overweight and ADHD has yet not been established in the general population in childhood. As both disorders are common and significantly affect psychosocial functioning, we investigated the prevalence of ADHD in overweight/obese youth and vice versa. In a cross-sectional nationally representative and community based survey 2,863 parents and their children aged 11-17 years rated symptoms on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-based German ADHD Rating scale. Weight and height were assessed by professionals. Body mass index was categorized according to national age and sex specific reference values. Overall, 4.2% of the respondents met criteria for ADHD. The prevalence of ADHD was significantly higher for overweight/obese (7%) than for normal weight (3.5%) and underweight (4.9%) children. In a logistic regression analysis controlling for age, gender, and socio-economic status, overweight/obese children were twice as likely to have an ADHD diagnosis (OR = 2.0). Vice versa, adjusting for all covariates, children with ADHD had an OR of 1.9 for overweight/obesity status. For all weight-status groups, children with ADHD more frequently reported eating problems as compared to their non-clinical counterparts. Overweight/obese respondents with ADHD displayed the highest level of health services utilization. A clinician should be aware of the significant risk for a child with ADHD to become overweight and for an overweight child to have ADHD. Longitudinal studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms underlying the association between ADHD and overweight/obesity.

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