Israel has a military draft that applies to males and females alike, except orthodox women and orthodox male seminary(yeshiva) students, who are exempt. Upon turning 17 every Israeli undergoes a medical review, including both a physical and psychiatric assessment, in preparation for the draft. The Draft Board Registry maintains comprehensive health information on all unselected Israelis until they turn 21. The registry also tracks all family members of draft registrants, including full siblings.
An Israeli study team used registry records from 1998 through2014 to obtain data for a total of over a million individuals (1,085,388). Because of the exemption for orthodox women, 59% were male.
The team identified 903,690 full siblings in the study population (58% males), including 166,359 male-male sibling pairs, 104,494 female-female sibling pairs, and 197,571 opposite-sex sibling pairs.
Next, the team identified all cases in the study population with a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, low IQ (≥2 standard deviations below the population mean), Type-1 diabetes, hernia, or hematological malignancies. It matched each case with ten age- and sex-matched controls selected at random from the study population. Then, for each case and case-matched controls, it identified all siblings.
There were 3,272 cases receiving treatment for ADHD, 2,128 with autistic spectrum disorder, 9,572 with severe/profound intellectual disability, 7,902 with psychotic disorders, 9,704 with mood disorders, 10,606with anxiety disorders, 24,815 with personality disorders, 791 with substance abuse disorders, 31,186 with low IQ, 2,770 with Type-1 diabetes, 30,199 with a hernia, and 931 with hematological malignancies.
Draftees with ADHD were five and a half times more likely to have a sibling with ADHD than controls.
There were no significant associations between ADHD and any of the somatic disorders - Type-1 diabetes, hernia, or hematological malignancies - nor between ADHD and low IQ.
There were also no significant associations between ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, severe/profound intellectual disability, mood disorders, and substance use disorders.
On the other hand, draftees with ADHD were more than 40% more likely to have siblings with anxiety or personality disorders than controls.
Surprisingly, draftees with ADHD were less than half as likely to have siblings with psychotic disorders than controls.
There were some limitations. The psychiatric classification system used by the Israeli military did not permit assessing the risk of bipolar disorder and depression separately. That meant having to use a broader category of mood disorders, including both disorders. In addition, the military diagnostic system does not allow diagnosis of comorbid psychiatric disorders in the same individual, instead of assigning only the most severe diagnosis.
Persons with type 1 diabetes were found to be eight times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who were not diabetic.
Taiwan has a mandatory single-payer universal health insurance system, the National Health Insurance (NHI), that records diagnoses and prescriptions across virtually the entire resident population. Out of the roughly 28 million residents covered by NHI, a randomly assigned sample of 3 million is tracked in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database(NHIRD).
Expert panels have to confirm all diagnoses of severe systemic autoimmune diseases, ensuring a high level of accuracy.
A Taiwanese study team availed itself of these records to explore the link between type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and ADHD. ADHD diagnoses were made by board-certified psychiatrists, based on comprehensive interviews and clinical judgment.
The team found a total of 6,226 cases diagnosed with T1DM in the decade from 2001 through 2010 and followed them through the end of 2001. It matched each case with ten age- and sex-matched non-T1DM controls from the same database, for a total of 62,260 controls.
Persons with type 1 diabetes were found to be eight times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who were not diabetic. There was no difference in the risk ratio between youth and adults. The risk of ADHD among females with T1DM was only slightly lower than among males: sevenfold greater, rather than 8.5 times greater.
The authors concluded, "Our findings indicate the importance of the close monitoring of the mental health condition of patients with T1DM by clinicians ... The exact path of mechanisms between T1DM and major psychiatric disorders should be elucidated in future studies."
Statistically significant exposure-response trend found linking miscarriage and ADHD
Spontaneous abortion is the medical term used for what is more commonly known as miscarriage. It means the unintended loss of an embryo or fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. This must not be confused in any way with induced abortion, which is a deliberate and intentional act to terminate a pregnancy.
Most miscarriages occur when the fetus is not developing properly. Among the major causes of miscarriage are chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, abnormal hormonal imbalances, infections, and exposure to toxins.
A team of Chinese researchers used the Danish national registers to explore a nationwide cohort for associations between previous miscarriage and ADHD in subsequent offspring. They included all 1.1 million births in Denmark over the 17 years from 1995 through 2012. They excluded all children with chromosomal abnormalities, those born either extremely early (after less than 22 weeks gestation) or extremely late (greater than 45 weeks), and those for whom this information was missing. That left over one million children in the study cohort.
The team classified children as having ADHD either based on a recorded hospital diagnosis or after receiving ADHD medication prescriptions at least twice after the age of 3 years. A total of 25,747 children were identified as ADHD individuals (554 mothers having at least two miscarriages, 3,087 mothers having one miscarriage, and 22,106 mothers without miscarriage). The average age of the first ADHD diagnosis was 10 years.
Just over 130,000 children (12.2%) were born to mothers who had at least one miscarriage. Of these, just under 113,000 (10.6%) were born to mothers with a single miscarriage before birth, and just over 17,000 to mothers with more than one prior miscarriage.
Based on previous research, the team identified potential confounders, including sex, preterm birth (less than 37 weeks), low birth weight, small for gestational age, low Agar score (performed right after birth to assess the risk of infant mortality), maternal and paternal ages at birth, maternal diabetes, maternal hypothyroidism, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal education level, maternal and paternal psychiatric disorders before birth.
After adjusting for these possible confounders, children of mothers with a single prior miscarriage were 9% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers without any miscarriage. Children of mothers with two or more prior miscarriages were 22% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This upward exposure-response trend was statistically significant.
Preterm birth was found to be the strongest confounding mediator of this trend but accounted for under 4% of the association. The authors concluded, "the observed associations were independent of several factors, such as maternal socioeconomic status, type of spontaneous abortion, parental history of psychiatric disorders, pregnancy characteristics (maternal smoking status, infection, diabetes and hypothyroidism status during pregnancy)and birth outcomes (low birth weight, preterm birth, low Agar score, and small for gestational age)."
They also noted that given the frequency of miscarriages, affecting more than one in eight women, "a small increase of neurodevelopmental problems in offspring could have major public health implications."
It is difficult enough for a typical child to manage type-1 diabetes. For a child that also has ADHD, with learning difficulties, attention and memory problems, and limitations in social communication, it can be all the more challenging to carry out the complex tasks necessary to maintain glycemic control (control of blood sugar levels) and avoid diabetic harm.
To explore the additional risk associated with ADHD among children with type-1 diabetes, an international research team used the Swedish national registers to conduct a nationwide population study. Sweden has a single-payer national health insurance system, and assigns unique personal identification numbers to all residents, making it easy to cross-reference through various population and health registers.
The team used the Swedish Diabetes Register to identify all individuals born in Sweden from 1973 onwards with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes diagnosed before age 18. They then restricted the cohort to those who had no diabetic complications at diagnosis and whose HbA1c values had been recorded within 5 years of diagnosis.
Also known as the glycated hemoglobin test, HbA1c is an indicator of the average blood sugar (glucose) level over the past three months. When glucose builds up in the blood, it binds to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. The HbA1ctest measures bound glucose. Since red blood cells live for about 3 months, the test shows the average blood glucose over that period.
The team also searched for records of diabetes-related kidney damage (nephropathy) and damage to the retina (retinopathy). Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.
The nationwide cohort consisted of 11,326 Swedish youths diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, of whom 415 (3.7%) were also diagnosed with ADHD.
Poor glycemic control, defined as mean HbA1c greater than 8.5%, was found in 38% of those with ADHD, twice the 19% found in those without neurodevelopmental disorders. After adjusting for confounders(sex, age at diabetes diagnosis, year of birth and year of diabetes diagnosis, another psychiatric morbidity, parental highest education level, parental psychiatric morbidity, smoking status, mean BMI [body mass index], and mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure), those with ADHD were 2.3 times as likely to have poor glycemic control.
Patients with ADHD were also almost twice as likely to suffer kidney damage, after adjusting for sex, age at diabetes diagnosis, year of birth, year of diabetes diagnosis, another psychiatric morbidity, parental highest education level, parental psychiatric morbidity, mean HbA1c levels, mean BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and smoking status.
After the same adjustments, patients with ADHD were found to be a third (33%) more likely to suffer retinal damage.
The team concluded, "childhood-onset type 1 diabetes patients with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially those with ADHD or intellectual disability, are more prone to poor glycemic control and a higher risk of chronic diabetic complications compared with those without neurodevelopmental disorders.
Further longitudinal studies with a more comprehensive evaluation of diabetes management and molecular data are needed to provide insight into potential mediators in the association between comorbid neurodevelopmental disorder and diabetes complications in type 1 diabetes."
Both Taiwan and Sweden have universal single-payer health insurance systems that in effect track their entire national populations. With detailed health and other records on millions of individuals, with no significant exclusions, one can essentially eliminate sampling error, and also explore how associations vary by degree of familial/genetic relationship.
A Taiwanese research team used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to follow 708,517 family triads (father-mother-child) from 2001 through 2011. That's a total of over 2.1 million persons. The database covers over 99% of Taiwan's population.
Noting that previous studies had found links between maternal autoimmune diseases and ADHD in their offspring and that research on associations with paternal autoimmune diseases had been inconclusive, they were particularly interested in exploring the latter.
Children born from 2001 through 2008 were enrolled in the study. The investigators then noted the presence or absence of any autoimmune disease in their parents from 1996 through childbirth.
In Taiwan, expert panels review diagnostic information of severe systemic autoimmune diseases to confirm the diagnosis. Once confirmed, patient co-payments are waived. ADHD diagnoses are by board-certified psychiatrists.
To reduce the effect of confounding variables, adjustments were made for family demographic data (income level and residence), parental ages, parental mental disorders, and sex of children.
The presence of any maternal autoimmune diseases was associated with a 60% greater risk of ADHD in offspring. The risk was especially elevated for inflammatory bowel diseases (2.4 times the risk) and ankylosing spondylitis (twice the risk).
The presence of any paternal autoimmune diseases was also associated with an elevated risk of ADHD in offspring, although only about half as much as for maternal autoimmune diseases, with a 33% greater risk overall. The association was especially pronounced for psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis, both doubling the risk of ADHD in offspring.
Meanwhile, half a world away, a joint Swedish, Norwegian, and U.S. team used the Swedish national registries to dig further into these associations. They did this by examining data not only from mothers and fathers, but from full siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins as well, to probe genetic links.
The team used the Swedish registers to identify 5,178,225 individuals born in Sweden between 1960 and 2010 for whom the identity of the biological mother was known, excluding all who died or emigrated before age 10. They then used the registers to identify the aforementioned relatives.
The researchers only included autoimmune diseases with at least two thousand diagnosed individuals in the cohort, to avoid small sample effects.
They adjusted for sex and year of birth, but not "for another covariate that is often adjusted for (e.g. maternal education, family income, parental psychiatric disorder, parental AD [autoimmune disease] as these are likely not true confounders of the association between ADHD and ADD, but may rather represent either mediator between ADHD and AD's, or proxies of ADHD and/or AD risk or alternatively proxies for the associations we aim to measure."
The team found statistically significant associations between ADHD and autoimmune diseases in all categories of relatives. Mothers of children with ADHD were 29% more likely to have an autoimmune disease than those of typically developing children; fathers were 14% more likely to have an autoimmune disease; full siblings 19% more likely; aunts 12% more likely; uncles 7% more likely; and cousins 4% more likely.
Quantitative genetic modeling produced a significant genetic correlation, but no significant environmental correlation. Genetic correlation explained most, if not all, the covariance between ADHD and any autoimmune disease.
The authors concluded, "ADHD was to some degree more strongly associated with maternal than paternal AD's, but by using aunts and uncles in a genetically informative study design, we demonstrate that this difference cannot be readily explained by AD-mediated maternal effects. Quantitative genetic modeling further indicates that the familial co-aggregation of ADHD and ADs is partly due to shared genetic factors. In addition, biological aunts, uncles, and cousins must be assumed to share the little environment with the index individuals, in further support of shared genetic factors underlying the familial co-aggregation. Moreover, both epidemiological and molecular genetics studies have demonstrated positive genetic correlations between ADHD and ADs, in agreement with our findings."
The authors emphasize that these results do not warrant screening for autoimmune diseases among asymptomatic individuals with ADHD.
Threatened spontaneous abortion is defined as vaginal bleeding without cervix dilation within 20 weeks of the onset of pregnancy.
Risk factors include advanced age, obesity, lifestyle (e.g., caffeine intake, lack of physical exercise, stress, cigarette smoking, and alcohol intake), socioeconomic variables, and low serum progesterone. Progesterone is a female hormone that plays a key role in the implantation of the fertilized egg, formation of the placenta, and sustaining a pregnancy.
Threatened spontaneous abortion affects roughly a fifth of pregnancies in the first trimester (first three months). Up to 11 weeks into pregnancy, it seldom leads to spontaneous abortion, but after 11 weeks the likelihood shoots up to as high as half of the affected pregnancies.
Denmark has universal single-payer health insurance. A team of researchers at Aarhus University used their country's comprehensive administrative and healthcare registries to explore any possible association between threatened spontaneous abortion and subsequent ADHD.
That enabled them to analyze a nationwide population of 1,864,221 singletons (as opposed to multiple births such as twins or triplets) live-born from 1979 to 2010. Of these children,59,134 (3.2%) experienced threatened spontaneous abortion within 20 weeks of gestation.
The team adjusted for a series of covariants that could confound outcomes: characteristics of mothers [age at childbirth, pre-pregnancy co-morbidities (somatic, neurologic, psychiatric), healthcare use, medication use, income, education, and employment]; fathers (age on the date of the child's birth, psychiatric co-morbidities a history of epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and ADHD); and children (birth year, birth order).
With these adjustments, they found that children who had experienced threatened spontaneous abortion were a fifth (21%) more likely to have ADHD. But it's exceedingly difficult to account for all confounding variables.
Because of the enormous size of the sample, however, the team was also able to compare 15,875 individuals who experienced threatened spontaneous abortions with an equal number of their paired full siblings who did not, to examine the effect of residual confounding variables. This time, they found no significant differences in the likelihood of ADHD between full siblings.
The authors observed that "controlling for family-shared factors, including genetic makeup and other factors remaining constant between pregnancies and in children's early environments, removed family-shared confounding." They concluded, "After removal, by the sibling design, of time-invariant family-shared confounding, there was no evidence of an increased risk of epilepsy or ADHD among TAB [Threatened Abortion]-affected children."
All Swedish residents have their health records tracked through unique personal identity numbers. That makes it possible to identify psychiatric and medical disorders with great accuracy across an entire population, in this case encompassing more than five and a half million adults aged 18 to 64. A subgroup of more than 1.6 million persons between the ages of 50 and 64 enabled a separate examination of disorders in older adults.
Slightly over one percent of the entire population (about 61,000) was diagnosed with ADHD at some point as an adult. Individuals with ADHD were nine times as likely to suffer from depression as were adults not diagnosed with ADHD. They were also more than nine times as likely to suffer from anxiety or a substance use disorder, and twenty times as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These findings are very consistent with reports from clinical samples in the USA and Europe.
Adults with ADHD also had elevated levels of metabolic disorders, being almost twice as likely to have high blood pressure, and more than twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes. Persons with ADHD but without psychiatric comorbidities were also almost twice as likely to have high blood pressure, and more than twice as likely to have type2 diabetes.
Similar patterns were found in men and women with ADHD, although comorbid depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety were moderately more prevalent in females than in males, whereas substance use disorder, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension were more prevalent in males than in females.
ADHD was less than a third as prevalent in the over-50 population as in the general adult population. Nevertheless, individuals in this older group with ADHD were twelve times as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders, and more than 23 times as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder as their non-ADHD peers. They were also 63% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 72% more likely to have type 2 diabetes.
The authors noted, "Although the mechanisms underlying these associations are not well understood, we know from both epidemiologic and molecular genetic studies that a shared genetic predisposition might account for the coexistence of two or more psychiatric conditions. In addition, individuals with ADHD may experience increased difficulties as the demands of life increase, which may contribute to the development of depression and anxiety." As for associations with hypertension and type 2 diabetes, these "might reflect health risk behaviors among adult patients with comorbid ADHD in addition to a shared biological substrate. As others have noted, inattention, disinhibition, and disorganization associated with ADHD could make it difficult for patients to adhere to treatment regimens for metabolic disorders." They concluded that "Clinicians should remain vigilant for a wide range of psychiatric and metabolic problems in ADHD affected adults of all ages and both sexes."