Neurology Central

Children with ADHD and their mothers may have a shorter life expectancy than the average population

New research from the D’Or Institute of Research and Education and the Federal University of Minas Gerais has found that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and their mothers are more likely to have shorter telomeres, a hallmark of cellular aging which is linked to an increased risk of conditions such as cancer, diabetes and obesity. The study was published recently in Frontiers of Molecular Neuroscience.

While telomere shortening happens naturally with aging, with shorter telomeres associated with shorter life expectancy, research indicates the process is accelerated by psychological and biological stress.

The new study included 61 ADHD children between the ages of 6 and 16, along with their parents. The researchers observed that children within the study group possessed shorter telomeres than expected for their ages. Mother’s telomeres were also shorter, although there was no alteration in the father’s telomere length.

The researchers believe that shortened telomeres may be a result of the stress that ADHD symptoms generate for the children and their mothers. Mothers are commonly the main carers of their children, and consequently show higher levels of stress and depressive disorders than fathers.

“When people think about behavioral issues with children, they think about the psychological component and how that impacts school performance and interaction with society,” commented author of the study Paulo Mattos (D’Or Institute of Research and Education). “These kinds of impact are real, but what we are showing for the first time now is that ADHD can impact at the cellular level, at the DNA.”

The research team also discovered that hyperactivity symptoms are more closely related to telomere length than inattention symptoms and that higher levels of hyperactivity in children are linked to shorter relative telomeres in these children and their mothers.

“This makes sense if you think that hyperactivity is the symptom that affects more negatively the family and causes more stress,” commented Mattos. “It is usually the reason why parents search for medical care in the first place.”

The findings highlight the need for early intervention in order to address behavior issues in children and consequently to prevent psychosocial stress and shortening of telomeres in both the children affected and their mothers.

“Decreasing the hyperactivity and impulsivity levels in children is fundamental to them and their mothers and this can be achieved by several behavioral techniques applied as soon as possible,” highlighted another author of the study, Débora Miranda (Federal University of Minas Gerais).

Written by Ellen Clarke

Sources: D’Or Institute of Research and Education press release via EurekAlert!; de Souza Costa D, Freitas Rosa DV, Almeida Barros AG, Romano-Silva MA, Malloy-Diniz LF, Mattos P, de Miranda DM. Telomere length is highly inherited and associated with hyperactivity-impulsivity in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Front. Mol. Neurosci. 10(8) (2015).