Teens with ADHD More Likely to Drop Out of High School
Teenagers with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to drop out of high school or delay graduation than their peers with more serious mental health conditions, such as mania, mood disorders and panic disorders. The study, conducted at the UC Davis MIND Institute in California, also found that smoking was significantly associated with an increased risk of failing to complete high school on time.
Study investigator Julie Schweitzer PhD and colleagues examined the predictive effects of childhood and adolescent-onset psychiatric and substance use disorders on the failure to graduate high school on time using data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. The final study cohort included almost 30,000 respondents 18 years and older.
The participants were interviewed about the age of onset of the psychiatric diagnosis, substance use, and high school graduation. Overall, 5310 or 16.9% did not complete high school on time. Those with ADHD (combined type) had the highest dropout rate at 28.6% compared to 15.2% of those teens without a psychiatric disorder. Those with mania or panic disorder dropped out at 26.6% and 24.9% respectively.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder has three subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. The combined type is the most common.
The authors also found that 29.1% of those who used tobacco, 20.5% of those who used alcohol, and 24.6% of those who used drugs dropped out or delayed graduation.
Nationally, one-third of youth in the United States do not complete high school on time. "Most people think that the student who is acting out, who is lying and stealing, is most likely to drop out of school. But we found that students with the combined type of ADHD have a higher likelihood of dropping out than student with disciplinary problems," said Schweitzer in a statement.
"This study shows that ADHD is a serious disorder that affects a child's ability to be successful in school and subsequently in a way that can limit success in life," she added.
ADHD impacts achievement because it affects how well students are able to perform basic classroom tasks, said Joshua Breslau PhD ScD, associate professor of internal medicine and the study’s lead author. Developing methods to help students with ADHD graduate high school could have significant long-term societal benefits, added Schweitzer.
The study was published online July 16 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
Updated March 17, 2014