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ADHD can be linked to mothers with inflammatory diseases

Children of mothers with diseases like asthma or arthritis have up to eighty per cent higher risk of developing ADHD.

Pregnant woman
Offspring of mothers with chronic inflammations have a heightened risk of developing ADHD, a new study published in Biological Psychiatry finds.
Illustration: Colourbox


Inflammatory and immune system diseases in mothers can have an effect on the embryo’s nervous system, and can be linked to the development of ADHD. This is the conclusion in a new study published in Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers compared the health of 48,000 patients who had been given drug treatment for ADHD, to the health of mothers in a control group of over two million people. This makes the study the largest of its kind.

A heightened risk

“We found that the risk of developing ADHD increased by 20 to 80 per cent in offspring of mothers with multiple sclerosis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and type 1 diabetes,” says Johanne Telnes Instanes, lead author of the article and PhD candidate at the University of Bergen K. G. Jebsen Centre for research on neuropsychiatric disorders.

In contrast, chronic hypertension or diabetes type 2 could not be linked to ADHD in offspring.

“The link between inflammatory diseases and a heightened risk of ADHD in offspring could also be caused by common genetic predisposition, or by the drugs used during pregnancy. But the link can also be a combination of the two,” says Kari Klungsøyr, professor at the University of Bergen, associated with the K.G. Jebsen Centre and co-author of the article.

Project ADHD

Since 2012 Instanes, Klungsøyr and their colleagues have been working on a larger project looking at different aspects of ADHD. In the future they will concentrate on the heredity of ADHD and why it seems to run in families.

The study is based on data from several large Norwegian health databases.