ADHD, smoking may be linked with dropping out of school


Many roads can lead to a teen dropping out of high school, but a new study finds that having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and smoking may be strongly linked to not finishing school.

Researchers from UC Davis looked at data on 29,662 people from the the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. Out of 29,662 people in the study, 32.3% of students who had a combined form of ADHD (hyperactivity and inattentiveness) dropped out of high school.

Teens with conduct disorder also had a higher drop out rate -- 31%.

As a comparison, students who had mania had a 26.6% drop out rate, and those with panic disorder had a 24.9% drop out rate. Teens with no psychiatric disorder had a 15% drop out rate.

Smoking was another important factor in leaving high school early. Among tobacco users, 29% dropped out. Those who drank alcohol had a 20% drop out rate, and those who used drugs had a 24.6% drop out rate. Combining smoking with alcohol and drugs did not increase the risk of dropping out.

“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,” said senior author Julie Schweitzer of the UC Davis MIND Institute, in a news release.

The study points out how mental health issues can have an significant effect on a child’s education: “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder impacts achievement because it affects how well students are able to perform basic classroom tasks from paying attention to turning in their homework,” said Joshua Breslau, associate professor of internal medicine, in the release. Breslau, the study’s lead author, added, “Students with conduct disorder are able to do just as well as everyone else academically but disciplinary issues and dealing with the routines of school life may cause them to drop out.”

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

-- Jeannine Stein