What does it mean?
A new article from my team was released this week, showing that ADHD is related to social disadvantage. That means that if a family is in poverty or low income, or is experiencing what social scientists call “low social status” due to lack of parental education or low paying job, that the chances of a child having ADHD are higher. We showed clearly that the effect is not explainable by the fact that social disadvantage and ADHD also both overlap with children’s general behavior problems, and also not explained by the fact that adults with ADHD (who also have kids with ADHD) tend to obtain less education and less well paying jobs. There seems to be an actual effect of social disadvantage on ADHD itself.
Why would this be?
My hunch is that these socio-economic challenges are associated with chronic stress for parents and for kids. Less resources, more stress. If you are in this situation, you already knew this! Chronic stress builds up physical inflammation and other cell damage in the body of the individual. This physical wear and tear has a fancy scientific term: allostatic load. Scientists are learning how to measure it in the body. It fits with an emerging idea that inflammation contributes to the development of ADHD. What should you do? Recognize that chronic stress can add to ADHD risk, and do what you can do build up your social supports and physical health (for you and your children) and also give permission to yourself to engage in your own self-care. Recognize that as you manage stress levels in your own life, you are also helping your child.