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Researchers Tied Sunny Areas to Reduced ADHD Risk

Update Date: Oct 23, 2013 04:03 PM EDT

Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that causes difficulties with concentration and overactive behaviors. People with ADHD are usually diagnosed in early childhood and symptoms could hinder academic progress if left untreated. Since ADHD greatly affects a child's upbringing, researchers have studied the condition with the hopes of finding ways to prevent it and ways to treat it more efficiently. In a new study, researchers from the Netherlands found a relationship between ADHD prevalence and sunlight.

According to this study headed by Martijn Arns from Utrecht University, sunny areas might reduce one's risk of ADHD. Arns examined maps of the United States and nine other countries, which were provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Energy. He compared the areas based on sunlight and ADHD prevalence. He concluded that areas that had more sunlight also had lower rates of ADHD.

Since the study did not find a cause and effect relationship, Arns reasoned that areas with more sunlight might improve ADHD because sunlight helps regulate people's biological clocks. Treatments for sleeping disorders that use light therapy to restore the body's normal circadian rhythms have also worked in improving symptoms of ADHD. Based on these findings, the researchers recommended that in areas where sunlight is sparse, people could utilize lights more often. Furthermore, parents or schools can maximize sunlight exposure by scheduling playtime outdoors during specific times. However, since there is no evidence that sunlight prevents ADHD, people do not have to consider relocating and moving their entire life to a sunnier environment.

"The reported association is intriguing, but it raises many questions that have no answers," commented Dr. John Krystal who was not a part of the study. "Do sunny climates reduce the severity or prevalence of ADHD and if so, how? Do people prone to develop ADHD tend to move away from sunny climates and if so, why?"

The study was published in Biological Psychiatry

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