Israel-wide population study:siblings of individuals with ADHD have highly elevated risk of ADHD, slightly elevated risk of anxiety and personality disorders, no greater risk for other disorders or low IQ

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.

Mark Weiser, Or Frenkel, Daphna Fenchel, DoritTzur, SvenSandin, Magdalena Janecka, Linda Levi, Michael Davidson, Lucian Laor, EyalFruchter, and Abraham Reichenberg: “Familial clustering of psychiatric disorders and low IQ,”Psychological Medicine (2021), published online,https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721004852.

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