Objective Childhood chronic illness can have a high impact on the child's quality of life. The foundations of health are established in early life, and are shaped by biological, psychosocial, spiritual and environmental processes and influences. The objectives of this presentation are twofold: firstly to describe the prevalence of chronic illness in 9-year-olds in Ireland, secondly to illustrate how chronic illness influences the psychological and social development of the children.
Methods Analysis was based on data of 8570 9-year old children, and their families who participated in Growing Up in Ireland—the National Longitudinal Study of Children. The sample was generated through the primary school system. A representative sample of 910 schools participated; the sample of children and their families was randomly selected from within the schools. Questionnaires were administered in schools; and after completion of this phase, the project interviewers visited the families of the 9-year olds in their homes and administered core questionnaires to the Study Child and his/her carers who provided either home-based or centre-based care on a regular basis.
Results The overall prevalence of chronic illness reported by mothers among the 9-year old cohort was 11% (gender-specific prevalence for boys: 13%, and significantly lower for girls: 10%). Respiratory illnesses accounted for almost half (46%) of all chronic illnesses, followed by mental and behavioural conditions with 19% (high gender dysbalance: reported for boys in 24%, for girls in 12%). Children with a reported chronic illness had significantly more emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, peer-based and prosocial difficulties when compared with children without a reported chronic illness. Abnormal scores, based on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire were found in 20% in children with a chronic disease, and in 5.5% in children without a chronic disease. Socio-economic Status was associated with poorer health outcomes. Furthermore, primary care givers' views and perceptions regarding the chronic illness of the child were found to be a significant factor on child strengths and difficulties in a multivariate model.
Conclusions The majority of 9-year old children can be assessed as healthy. The most common chronic illness in this large cohort was respiratory disease and overall, chronic conditions were found to have a negative impact on the child's emotional and social state.
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