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Prior research demonstrated that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with binge-eating behavior, binge-eating disorder (BED), and bulimia nervosa (BN). The aim of this study was to investigate these associations in an adult twin population, and to determine the extent to which ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior share genetic and environmental factors.
We used self-reports of current ADHD symptoms and lifetime binge-eating behavior and associated characteristics from a sample of over 18 000 adult twins aged 20–46 years, from the population-based Swedish Twin Registry. Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to examine the association between ADHD and lifetime binge-eating behavior, BED, and BN. Structural equation modeling was used in 13 773 female twins to determine the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the association between ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior in female adult twins.
ADHD symptoms were significantly associated with lifetime binge-eating behavior, BED, and BN. The heritability estimate for current ADHD symptoms was 0.42 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.41–0.44], and for lifetime binge-eating behavior 0.65 (95% CI 0.54–0.74). The genetic correlation was estimated as 0.35 (95% CI 0.25–0.46) and the covariance between ADHD and binge-eating behavior was primarily explained by genetic factors (91%). Non-shared environmental factors explained the remaining part of the covariance.
The association between adult ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior in females is largely explained by shared genetic risk factors.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) has been associated with increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. It is, however, unclear whether this association is causal or due to familial confounding.
Data from 18 168 adult twins, aged 20–46 years, were drawn from the population-based Swedish twin registry. Retrospective self-ratings of CM (emotional and physical neglect, physical and sexual abuse and witnessing family violence), and self-ratings for DSM-IV ADHD symptoms in adulthood were analysed. Possible familial confounding was investigated using a within twin-pair design based on monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins.
CM was significantly associated with increased levels of ADHD symptom scores in adults [regression coefficient: 0.40 standard deviations, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.37–0.43]. Within twin-pair analyses showed attenuated but significant estimates within DZ (0.29, 95% CI 0.21–0.36) and MZ (0.18, 95% CI 0.10–0.25) twin pairs. Similar results emerged for hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive ADHD symptom scores separately in association with CM. We conducted sensitivity analyses for early maltreatment, before age 7, and for abuse and neglect separately, and found similarly reduced estimates in DZ and MZ pairs. Re-traumatization after age 7 did not significantly influence results.
CM was significantly associated with increased ADHD symptoms in adults. Associations were partly due to familial confounding, but also consistent with a causal interpretation. Our findings support cognitive neuroscience studies investigating neural pathways through which exposure to CM may influence ADHD. Clinicians treating adults with ADHD should be aware of the association with maltreatment.
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