Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and head injury (including traumatic brain injury (TBI)) manifest in high levels across prison samples and guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence notes that people with acquired brain injury may have increased prevalence of ADHD. We aimed to examine the association of ADHD with TBI and the impact of the association upon health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and service use among imprisoned adults.

An observational study was performed in 2011–2013, at Porterfield Prison, Inverness, United Kingdom (UK). The all male sample included 390 adult prison inmates with capacity to consent and no history of moderate or severe intellectual disability. Head injury was measured with a series of self-reported questions, addressing history of hits to the head: frequency, severity, loss of consciousness (LOC), and sequelae. Participants were interviewed using the Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in Adults 2.0. The Health Utilities Index Mark 3 was used to measure health status, and to calculate attribute specific HRQoL and Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) scores.

72% of prisoners sampled reported at least one head injury in their lifetime. Among those, 70% of head injuries occurred before age 16 and 70% experienced LOC. Prisoners with ADHD were nearly twice more likely to have TBI. Prisoners with ADHD-only and ADHD with co-morbid TBI had significantly lower scores in several HRQoL attributes, compared with TBI only or the absence of either condition. Adjusted logistic regression models indicated an average reduction of 0.20 QALYs in inmates with ADHD-only and 0.30 QALY loss in those with ADHD with co-morbid TBI compared with inmates with neither condition.

There is a robust association between ADHD and TBI, and ADHD with co-morbid TBI confers significantly greater impairment in terms of HRQoL. Managing the short and long-term consequences of TBI is essential to improving care for prisoners and to addressing the criminogenic factors related to them.

Susan Young, Rafael A. González, Moshe Fridman, Paul Hodgkins, Keira Kim and Gisli H. Gudjonsson
BMC Psychiatry, 2018 18:209