Background Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be viewed as the extreme end of heritable traits distributed in the general population. Due to the focus on children in the literature on ADHD and data constraints, to-date, almost no research focused on the relationship between ADHD-related outcomes in older adults from the general population. As ADHD is a highly heritable disorder, high genetic liability for ADHD may influence several important live domains in older adults; however, this question has not been investigated yet.
Methods Using a population representative sample of 6332 individuals aged ≥50 with an average age 64.7 years (standard deviation (SD)=9.3, range=50–101) from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, we investigated relationships of genetic propensity to ADHD, as measured using polygenic score (PGS-ADHD), with several important life domains, such as occupational and social function, poor health, intimate relationships and cognition, which was measured employing tests for verbal memory and executive function. Information on physical health and socio-economic circumstances were self-reported by the participants; data on sexual activity and function were collected via the Sexual Relationships and Activities Questionnaire.
Results Compared to participants with low PGS-ADHD, older adults with high polygenic predisposition to ADHD were at a greater risk of lower educational attainment (OR=1.29, 95%CI=1.29–1.68, p<0.001) and low accumulated wealth (OR=1.43, 95%CI=1.25–1.62, p<0.00); similar findings were observed in relation to lower verbal fluency score (Coef=-0.62, 95%CI=-1.0- -0.24, p<0.001) and verbal memory score (Coef=-0.37, 95%CI=-0.56- -0.19, p=0.001). Older adults with high PGS-ADHD had a significantly higher likelihood to report poor self-rated health (OR=1.42, 95%CI=1.22–1.64, p<0.001), body mass index ≥30 (OR=1.29, 95%CI=1.13–1.48, p<0.001), and the presence of moderate to severe pain (OR=1.42, 95%CI=1.23–1.63, p<0.001). They also had 36% higher odds of reporting a low or infrequent sexual activity in the past year (95%CI=1.16–1.60, p<0.001).
Conclusion This is the first study to show that having a higher polygenic predisposition for ADHD is associated with poorer health, low socioeconomic status, limited sexual activity, and lower cognitive performance in older adults. These results highlight high polygenic risk for ADHD as an important risk factor poor functioning in several important life domains including poor health.
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