The incidence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children and youth is high, and temporal increases have been paralleled by deteriorating life-styles. Poor diet quality, physical inactivity, poor sleep habits, and sedentary behaviors have all been associated with ADHD. However, no earlier prospective study has examined the independent and combined importance of meeting established life-style recommendations in childhood for ADHD in adolescence. We examined the associations of adherence to life-style recommendations with the incidence of ADHD and the utilization of health services associated with ADHD.
Life-style survey among 10- and 11-year-old students (N = 3436) was linked to administrative health data. Associations between adherence to nine established life-style recommendations with ADHD diagnosis and number of physician visits for ADHD until age 14 years were examined using Cox proportional hazard and negative binomial regression.
Before age 14 years, 10.8% of students received an ADHD diagnosis. Meeting recommendations for vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives, saturated fat, added sugar, and physical activity was associated with fewer ADHD diagnoses. Compared with children who met one to three recommendations, meeting seven to nine recommendations was associated with substantially lower incidence of ADHD and fewer physician visits related to ADHD (hazard ratio = 0.42 [95% confidence interval = 0.28–0.61]; rate ratio = 0.38 [95% confidence interval = 0.22–0.65]).
Life-style recommendations exist to benefit development and physical health. Their promotion comes at no harm and may have benefits for ADHD. Experimental evidence is needed to clarify the potential bidirectional relationship between ADHD and adverse health behaviors.