June 15, 2017
1 min read

Childhood chronic illness increases risk for adult depression, anxiety

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Chronic physical illness in childhood was associated with increased risk for depression and anxiety in adulthood, particularly childhood cancer.

“Very little is known about life-long effects of childhood chronic physical illness on mental health,” Darya Gaysina, PhD, of the University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K., said in a press release. “Our results show that childhood chronic physical illness was significantly associated with adult depression in the total sample of more than 45,000 participants we studied.”

Darya Gaysina

To assess associations between chronic physical illnesses with childhood onset, including arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic renal failure, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes and epilepsy, and emotional problems in adulthood, researchers conducted meta-analyses of 34 studies (n = 45,358).

Overall, chronic physical illness was associated with adult depression (OR = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.12-1.54) and anxiety (OR = 1.47; 95% CI, 1.13-1.92).

Separate meta-analyses for childhood asthma, type 1 diabetes and cancer were conducted, which indicated a significant association between cancer and adult depression (OR = 1.19; 95% CI, 1-1.42).

“It seems that if there is a higher risk of mental health issues in adulthood for those with childhood-onset chronic physical illnesses, further in-depth research in this area could help change the way practitioners work with youth with chronic conditions, ensuring that there is as much a focus on the patient's mental health as their physical health,” Gaysina said in the release. – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.