A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto claims that adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to report they were sexually and physically abused before they turned 16 than their peers without ADHD, according to a press release. The study appears online in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

Among women, 34 percent diagnosed with ADHD reported having been sexually abused before the age of 18 while 14 percent of women without ADHD reported childhood sexual abuse. Also, 44 percent of women with ADHD reported childhood physical abuse. In contrast, 21 percent of women without a diagnosis of ADHD reported the same type of abuse.

"These findings suggest there is a silent epidemic of abuse among people and particularly women with ADHD," said co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor and Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at U of T's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Faculty of Medicine, according to a press release.

Fuller-Thomson also noted that a greater percentage of men with ADHD reported that they were sexually abused or physically abused during their childhood versus men without ADHD.

"It may be that early maltreatment affects neurobiological development," Fuller-Thomson said, according to the press release. "It is also possible that children with ADHD are more vulnerable to abuse."

The study authors wrote: "The results demonstrate a link between childhood physical and sexual abuse and ADHD for both men and women. Future prospective studies are required to further understand this interesting relationship."

Per the study, the research was supported by a contract from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The lead author is also supported by Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair, The University of Toronto, Canada.