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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 57 (2015) 9, 635 - 644

New research

The epidemiology of ADHD in first-year university students

P. Mortier, K. Demyttenaere, M.K. Nock, J.G. Green, R.C. Kessler, R. Bruffaerts

background Little is known about the epidemiology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in university students.
aim To investigate the prevalence of adult adhd and comorbid psychiatric symptoms and their effect on the academic performance of first-year university students, and to find out to what extent these students make use of the mental health services of the university.
method All first-year students at the University of Leuven in Belgium were asked to complete a computer-assisted survey with a weighted cross-sectional design (n=4,921, response rate= 65.4%). The adhd of these students was measured with the help of the adhd Self-Report Scale (asrs-6).
results On the basis of the threshold used, we found that between 1.4 and 8.3% of the entire population of first-year students met the criteria for adhd. Even after controlling for sociodemographic variables, we found that adhd was associated with a wide range of emotional problems including suicide attempts (or=9.10; Cohen’s d=0.53), binge eating (or=5.87; Cohen’s d=0.42), or psychotic symptoms (ors 4.44-4.69; Cohen’s d=0.36-0.37). Students with adhd were 2.46-3.84 times more likely to have a total grading percentage below 50 at the end of the academic year. Current use and lifetime use of the professional mental health services were estimated in the 7.6-15.5% and 26.5-41.5% range, respectively.
conclusion Adult adhd is common among first-year university students and is associated with comorbid psychiatric symptoms and poor academic performance. It is therefore surprising that so few students actually receive treatment for their psychiatric and emotional problems. key words adhd, comorbidity, impact, prevalence, service use, student