Teens With ADHD Often Have Trouble Completing High School

Dropping out or delayed graduation most common among kids with attention disorder, study finds

WEDNESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to drop out of high school or delay completing high school than other kids, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed U.S. data and found that nearly one-third of students with the most common type of ADHD either drop out or delay high school graduation. That rate is twice that of students with no psychiatric disorder.

There are three types of ADHD: hyperactive; inattentive; and combined, which incorporates hyperactive and inattentive symptoms. When they were grouped together, students with either inattentive or combined ADHD had a drop-out rate of 28.6 percent. But when looked at alone, students with combined ADHD had a rate of 32.3 percent.

"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 -- the most common type -- have a higher likelihood of dropping out than students with disciplinary problems," study senior author Julie Schweitzer, an ADHD expert and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, Davis, said in a university news release.

"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.

Developing methods to help students with ADHD graduate high school could have significant long-term societal benefits, according to Schweitzer.

"If you don't have your high school degree, you're going to have less income. You can't buy houses and cars. People who drop out of high school are more likely to be reliant on public assistance. This is a disorder that has serious long-term impacts on your ability to be successful and contribute to society, not just in school, but for the rest of your life," she said.

The researchers also found high drop-out rates among students with other mental health disorders. The rates were 26.6 percent for those with mood disorder, 24.9 percent for those with panic disorder, and up to about 20 percent for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia.

Smoking was also associated with a high risk of dropping out. The study found that 29 percent of students who smoked failed to complete high school on time, compared with 20 percent of those who used alcohol and 24.6 percent of those who used drugs.

The study was published in the July online edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about ADHD.

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