ADHD and Vision Problems in the National Survey of Children's Health

Optom Vis Sci. 2016 May;93(5):459-65. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000000823.


Purpose: To compare the prevalence of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children with normal vision and with vision problems not correctable with glasses or contact lenses (vision problems) as determined by parent report in a nationwide telephone survey.

Methods: This cross-sectional study included 75,171 children without intellectual impairment aged 4 to 17 years participating in the 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Children's Health, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Demographic information and information regarding vision and ADHD status were obtained by parent interview. Questions asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor or health care provider that the child had a vision problem not correctable with glasses or contact lenses, ADHD, intellectual impairment, or one of 13 other common chronic conditions of childhood. A follow-up question asked about condition severity. The main outcome measure was current ADHD.

Results: The prevalence of current ADHD was greater (p < 0.0001) among children with vision problems (15.6%) compared with those with normal vision (8.3%). The odds of ADHD compared with those of children with normal vision were greatest for those with moderate vision problems (odds ratio [OR], 2.6; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.7 to 4.4) and mild vision problems (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.9). Children with severe vision problems had similar odds of ADHD to those of children with normal vision perhaps because of the small numbers in this group (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 0.8 to 3.1). In multivariable analysis adjusting for confounding variables, vision problems remained independently associated with current ADHD (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.7).

Conclusions: In this large nationally representative sample, the prevalence of ADHD was greater among children with vision problems not correctable with glasses or contacts. The association between vision problems and ADHD remains even after adjusting for other factors known to be associated with ADHD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child Health
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Visually Impaired Persons / statistics & numerical data*