Association between childhood asthma and ADHD symptoms in adolescence--a prospective population-based twin study

Allergy. 2011 Sep;66(9):1224-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2011.02648.x. Epub 2011 May 21.


Background: Cross-sectional studies report a relationship between childhood asthma and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, but the mechanisms are yet unclear. Our objective was to investigate the longitudinal link between childhood asthma and the two dimensions of ADHD (hyperactivity-impulsivity, HI, and inattention, IN) in adolescence. We also aimed to explore the genetic and environmental contributions and the impact of asthma medication.

Methods: Data on asthma, HI and IN, birth weight, socioeconomic status, zygosity, and medication were collected from the Swedish Medical Birth Register and through parental questionnaires at ages 8-9 and 13-14 years on 1480 Swedish twin pairs born 1985-1986. The association between asthma at age 8-9 and ADHD symptoms at age 13-14 was assessed with generalized estimating equations, and twin analyses to assess the genetic or environmental determinants were performed.

Results: Children with asthma at age 8-9 had an almost twofold increased risk of having one or more symptom of HI (OR 1.88, 95% CI 1.18-3.00) and a more than twofold increased risk to have three symptoms or more of HI (OR 2.73, 95% CI 1.49-5.00) at age 13-14, independent of asthma medication. For IN, no significant relationship was seen. Results from twin modeling indicate that 68% of the phenotypic correlation between asthma and HI (r=0.23, 0.04-0.37) was because of genetic influences.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that childhood asthma is associated with subsequent development of HI in early adolescence, which could be partly explained by genetic influences. Early strategies to identify children at risk may reduce burden of the disease in adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / genetics
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires