Chronic Physical Health Conditions and Emotional Problems From Early Adolescence Through Midadolescence

Published in: Academic Pediatrics [Epub February 2017]. doi:10.1016/j.acap.2017.02.002

Posted on RAND.org on April 26, 2017

by LaRita Jones, Sylvie Mrug, Marc N. Elliott, Sara L Toomey, Susan R. Tortolero, Mark A. Schuster

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Objective

Chronic physical health conditions are highly prevalent in youth, frequently persisting into adulthood and contributing to the current and future health care burden in the United States. Our study evaluated associations of chronic physical health conditions with depressive and physiological anxiety symptoms in a community sample of youth and examined how those associations changed from early to midadolescence.

Methods

In this longitudinal study of 5147 youth, students and their caregivers were interviewed when youth were in grades 5 (mean age=11), 7 (mean age=13), and 10 (mean age=16). Caregivers reported family sociodemographics, youth race/ethnicity, and youth chronic physical health history at baseline. Youth reported their depressive symptoms at each time point and their physiological anxiety symptoms at grades 7 and 10.

Results

At age 11, 28.5% had experienced a chronic physical health condition. Having any chronic physical health condition was related to elevated depressive symptoms at age 11(2.05[plus or minus]0.05 vs 1.89[plus or minus]0.03; mean[plus or minus]standard error;P<.01)and anxiety symptoms at age 16 (2.72[plus or minus]0.06 vs 2.55[plus or minus]0.04;P<.05). Experiencing multiple conditions was also related to experiencing more depressive symptoms (b=0.13;P<.01)and physiological anxiety symptoms (b=0.13;P<.05). After adjusting for previous mental health symptoms, having any condition still predicted anxiety at age 16.

Conclusions

Children with chronic physical health conditions have an increased risk of depressive symptoms and physiological anxiety symptoms, especially in early and midadolescence. Repeated screening for these symptoms may help identify children in need of interventions.

Research conducted by

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