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6th November 2023

Levelling the playing field of support: A study of young women with ADHD

Welsh research is showing that there are more girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than previously thought, sparking hope for early diagnosis and timely support for those living with the condition.

It has been a long-held observation that ADHD is more common in boys, and that girls are less likely to be diagnosed with it. But Dr Joanna Martin, Senior Research Fellow at the Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University, said ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental condition with symptoms may be more noticeable in boys.

Dr Martin said:

If left untreated and unsupported, young women with ADHD are at increased risk of various mental health difficulties, including suicide. It’s really heartbreaking.

“In epidemiological studies from Scandinavian countries, the peak age of ADHD diagnosis in boys is between six and nine years old; in girls, it’s in adolescence when they are aged around 15 to 18.”

Dr Martin is also interested in studying a more gender diverse group of people with ADHD. As part of a recent qualitative study, her research team interviewed young adult women and non-binary people about their experiences of growing up with ADHD.

She added: “We want to make sure there’s a level playing field for young women and non-binary people in terms of access to diagnosis and support. We need to get the message out there, raise awareness and improve earlier diagnosis.”

Dr Martin is working on research through a Health and Care Research Wales / NIHR Fellowship Award to better understand ADHD in young people in Wales, and to increase awareness and recognition of ADHD.

Listen to the podcast produced by National Centre for Mental Health during which Dr Martin discussed her ADHD research.

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