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Parents of kids with chronic illnesses have worse health

09 Mar 2020
Healthcare professionals dealing with hospitalised children need to work hand-in-hand with the parents – to create a less stressful hospital stay for the children.

Parents caring for chronically ill children suffer from worse mental health and, in the case of mothers, greater risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality, reports a recent meta-analysis.

Accessing the databases of OvidSP, Embase, Medline, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EBSCOHost and CINAHL, researchers retrieved 26 studies eligible for analysis. Of these, 23 were about depression, eight reported on anxiety, and one study each investigated mortality and cardiovascular diseases.

Pooled analysis found that parents caring for kids with chronic illnesses had significantly greater anxiety scores relative to comparators who had healthy children (standardized mean difference [SMD], 0.42, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.24–0.60; p<0.001). Heterogeneity of evidence was high and significant.

Similarly, those who were caring for chronically ill children had greater depression burden than those who were not (SMD, 0.35, 95 percent CI, 0.26–0.35; p<0.001). Heterogeneity was likewise high and significant.

In addition, 35 percent of parents caring for children with chronic illnesses met the threshold for clinical depression, as opposed to only 19 percent of comparators (relative risk [RR], 1.75, 95 percent CI, 1.55–1.97; p0.001). The corresponding proportions for clinical anxiety were 57 percent and 38 percent, respectively (RR, 1.40, 95 percent CI, 1.18–1.67; p0.001).

Mothers caring for chronically ill kids were also at a higher risk of death (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.22, 95 percent CI, 1.15–1.29) and cardiovascular diseases (adjusted HR, 1.15, 95 percent CI, 1.07–1.23), according to data provided by the two individual studies. No such data were available for fathers.

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