Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD is a chronic neurological disorder that usually presents during childhood with symptoms including hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, and easy distractibility. It can have a drastic effect on a person’s quality of life, however many people either don’t believe it is a proven medical condition, or believe that it is not worthy of concern. Unfortunately, those beliefs are unfounded and quite harmful.
A presentation by Dr. Russell Barkley at the 2018 International ADHD conference presented ADHD as a public health issue worthy of much concern. It affects 5% of children worldwide and will follow many of these children into adulthood.
Barkley used data from his study that followed children with ADHD into adulthood. He found that the children with ADHD had an estimated lifespan over eight years shorter, and healthy life span almost ten years shorter than those without. For adults, it’s even worse with life spans shortening by over eleven years and healthy life spans decreasing by almost thirteen years.
ADHD is shown to be an extreme public health issue because one of its symptoms causes sufferers to prioritize the short term much more than the long term causing obesity, drug addiction, and more. Sufferers will struggle to quit smoking, stick to a diet, or do work in a timely manner. ADHD can also increase rates of car crashes, accidental injuries, and decrease sleep.
The effects of ADHD can be minimized if it is addressed as an issue of public health. To begin, ADHD must be acknowledged as a valid neurological disorder that affects executive function and self-regulation. Sufferers must be cared for throughout their life and more discussion must be had about treatment options. More education across the board is essential.
Everyone from doctors, teachers, and parents to students and the general population should be aware of the issues facing the diagnosed and undiagnosed. With proper education, more people will be aware that they have a legitimate medical disorder and can seek treatment.
Adults and their doctors must also be aware of the possibility of ADHD and patients that show symptoms should be tested. Its degradation of sleep, nutrition, and exercise must be addressed to ensure the health of patients. Substance abuse programs should also take into account that ADHD might be impeding treatment efforts.
Studies have shown that when treatment of ADHD stops, symptoms return, so until a permanent cure is found, treatment must be continuous.
ADHD is often seen as simply a disorder that makes school harder for patents, but it is much more than that and clearly, ADHD should not be treated as a minor issue because it has an extreme impact on quality of life. It has the potential to cause a multitude of health problems such as addiction and obesity and untreated, it acts as a catalyst for a short, unhealthy life.
Pushing all of this into the public eye will have a major impact on healthcare and the lives of millions. It will be met with criticism that ADHD can be treated with willpower, that it doesn’t need treatment at all, or that it isn’t a valid disorder to begin with. Research based discussion can be used to stifel these criticisms and move healthcare forward.
All of this may make one believe that those diagnosed with ADHD are doomed to a life of hardship and suffering, but with proper, well-rounded care and treatment, sufferers can live a happy, productive life.