Telomere Length and ADHD Symptoms in Young Adults

J Atten Disord. 2021 May;25(7):906-919. doi: 10.1177/1087054719865776. Epub 2019 Aug 2.


Objective: Previous research examining telomeres in individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders shows that greater illness, symptoms, or cognitive impairment are linked with shorter telomeres. However, the relationships of telomere length and neuropsychological processes or psychiatric symptoms are not understood in individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Method: 390 young adults with and without ADHD completed a multi-informant diagnostic assessment and neuropsychological testing battery. Participant DNA was isolated from saliva samples, and telomere length was determined using qPCR. Results: Linear regression models demonstrated the only significant association to survive correction for multiple testing was for childhood hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms and longer telomere length. Conclusion: Contrary to expectations, longer telomere length in young adults was associated only with childhood ADHD symptoms, particularly hyperactivity-impulsivity, in this sample. These findings are an important demonstration that the neuropsychological deficits and symptoms experienced by individuals diagnosed with ADHD during adulthood may not be negatively associated with telomere length.

Keywords: adult ADHD; neurocognitive measures; persistence; stress; telomere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / genetics
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Young Adult