ADHD and depression: investigating a causal explanation

Lucy Riglin*, Beate Leppert, Christina Dardani, Ajay Thapar, Frances Rice, Michael C O'Donovan, George Davey Smith, Evangelia Stergiakouli, Kate M Tilling, Anita Thapar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
117 Downloads (Pure)


Background: ADHD is associated with later depression and there is considerable genetic overlap between them. This study investigated if ADHD and ADHD genetic liability are causally related to depression using two different methods.

Methods: First, a longitudinal population cohort design was used to assess the association between childhood ADHD (age 7 years) and recurrent depression in young-adulthood (age 18-25 years) in N=8310 individuals in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Second, 2-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses examined relationships between genetic liability for ADHD and depression utilising published Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) data.

Results: Childhood ADHD was associated with an increased risk of recurrent depression in young-adulthood (OR=1.35, 95% CI=1.05-1.73). MR analyses suggested a casual effect of ADHD genetic liability on major depression (OR=1.21, 95% CI=1.12-1.31). MR findings using a broader definition of depression differed, showing a weak influence on depression (OR=1.07, 95% CI=1.02-1.13).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that ADHD increases risk of depression later in life and are consistent with a causal effect of ADHD genetic liability on subsequent major depression. However, findings were different for more broadly defined depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 8
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date6 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2020


  • ADHD
  • causal
  • depression
  • longitudinal
  • Mendelian randomization


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