Association Between ADHD and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Am J Psychiatry. 2016 Jan;173(1):34-43. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15020266. Epub 2015 Aug 28.


Objective: Impulsivity and inattention related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may increase food intake and, consequently, weight gain. However, findings on the association between obesity/overweight and ADHD are mixed. The authors conducted a meta-analysis to estimate this association.

Method: A broad range of databases was searched through Aug. 31, 2014. Unpublished studies were also obtained. Study quality was rated with the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Random-effects models were used.

Results: Forty-two studies that included a total of 728,136 individuals (48,161 ADHD subjects; 679,975 comparison subjects) were retained. A significant association between obesity and ADHD was found for both children (odds ratio=1.20, 95% CI=1.05-1.37) and adults (odds ratio=1.55, 95% CI=1.32-1.81). The pooled prevalence of obesity was increased by about 70% in adults with ADHD (28.2%, 95% CI=22.8-34.4) compared with those without ADHD (16.4%, 95% CI=13.4-19.9), and by about 40% in children with ADHD (10.3%, 95% CI=7.9-13.3) compared with those without ADHD (7.4%, 95% CI=5.4-10.1). The significant association between ADHD and obesity remained when limited to studies 1) reporting odds ratios adjusted for possible confounding factors; 2) diagnosing ADHD by direct interview; and 3) using directly measured height and weight. Gender, study setting, study country, and study quality did not moderate the association between obesity and ADHD. ADHD was also significantly associated with overweight. Individuals medicated for ADHD were not at higher risk of obesity.

Conclusions: This study provides meta-analytic evidence for a significant association between ADHD and obesity/overweight. Further research should address possible underlying mechanisms and the long-term effects of ADHD treatments on weight in individuals with both ADHD and obesity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Risk Factors