Dawn K. DeCarlo, Mark Swanson, Gerald McGwin, Kristina Visscher, and Cynthia Owsley

ADHD and Vision Problems in the National Survey of Children’s Health

publication date
October 27, 2015.
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Purpose: To compare the prevalence of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children with normal vision and

with vision problems not correctable with glasses or contact lenses (vision problems) as determined by parent report in a

nationwide telephone survey.


Methods: This cross-sectional study included 75,171 children without intellectual impairment aged 4 to 17 years participating in the 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention. Demographic information and information regarding vision and ADHD status were obtained by parent interview. Questions asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor or health care provider that the child had a vision problem

not correctable with glasses or contact lenses, ADHD, intellectual impairment, or one of 13 other common chronic conditions of childhood. A follow-up question asked about condition severity. The main outcome measure was current ADHD.


Results: The prevalence of current ADHD was greater (p G 0.0001) among children with vision problems (15.6%) compared

with those with normal vision (8.3%). The odds of ADHD compared with those of children with normal vision were greatest

for those with moderate vision problems (odds ratio [OR], 2.6; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.7 to 4.4) and mild vision

problems (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.9). Children with severe vision problems had similar odds of ADHD to those of children

with normal vision perhaps because of the small numbers in this group (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 0.8 to 3.1). In multivariable

analysis adjusting for confounding variables, vision problems remained independently associated with current ADHD (OR,

1.8; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.7).


Conclusions:  In this large nationally representative sample, the prevalence of ADHD was greater among children with

vision problems not correctable with glasses or contacts. The association between vision problems and ADHD remains

even after adjusting for other factors known to be associated with ADHD.

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