Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is making us all more conscious of our health, well being, and lifestyle, a new study involving 3000 5th grade students in Nova Scotia, Canada, reveals that those kids who met at least seven of nine healthy lifestyle recommendations had a substantially lower incidence of ADHD compared to their counterparts who only met between one and three of the criteria. The lifestyle habits included factors like exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene, and limited screen time on media.
Senior investigator on the study Dr. Paul Veugelers, at the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, commented: “The evidence is there to show that the association between lifestyle and physical health exists. Now it seems that these same recommendations also protect children from developing ADHD. The more factors they comply with, the less likely they are to develop ADHD. To date, no other study has really considered all these lifestyle factors simultaneously.”
Those readers who are familiar with my writings on this topic know that for the past twenty-five years I have been advocating for an approach to ADHD based upon a holistic model grounded in just these types of healthy lifestyle choices. I’ve argued that we rely too much on medications as a front-line defense against the symptoms of ADHD, whereas we should be looking at the sorts of factors that bolster health for all kids, including getting outdoors frequently (sunshine, nature, and exercise all have independently been validated as preventive factors for ADHD), having nutritious meals instead of junk food, limiting the time that kids spend on online media, nurturing positive family connections, and empowering kids at school.
These factors have not been sufficiently explored up until now because the medications ”work,” (in most cases), because they have the imprimatur of the medical profession behind them, and because their use is being driven by a multi-billion dollar a year pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, what doesn’t receive enough attention is the fact that these medications also have side effects, some of them quite serious, though rare.
It’s time that parents woke up to this issue and began to rethink the labels and drugs that are being used to treat their ADHD-diagnosed kids. It’s easy to give a drug, but harder to institute the wholesale lifestyle changes in a family that this study endorses, and yet the benefits of doing this are far more rewarding in and of themselves. In other words, you should do it for your whole family because it’s good for all of them, and your ADHD-diagnosed child may be the greatest beneficiary of all.
For a discussion of the issues I’ve raised in this post, plus 101 strategies that describe all the lifestyle choices listed in this study, plus many many more, see my book The Myth of the ADHD Child, Revised Edition: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion
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