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Study finds parents of children with disabilities at higher health risk

A study has found that parents of children with learning or have an increased risk of depression and are more likely to suffer from . The figures showed that 15% of parents of children with disabilities were classified as depressed and unfortunately less than half of them reported being treated for depression.

Study co-author, Dr , Department of Psychology, University of Limerick explains the significance of the report; “Providing care to a child with a disability can often be very stressful. When parents lack the resources to manage the difficult situations they are experiencing their health is likely to suffer. Moreover, if their condition goes untreated the ill-effects can extend beyond the parent to influence the whole family. Supporting these families may not only bring health benefits to the parents but indirectly benefit the whole family.”

In data generated from the Growing Up in Ireland study, a nationally representative sample of over 8,500 9-year old children in Ireland, the study found higher rates of depression and a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions such as respiratory and metabolic diseases in parents caring for children with learning and developmental disabilities compared to parents of typically developing children.

Study co-author, Professor Ailish Hannigan, Graduate Entry Medical School said: “The study took into account differences in demographics and pre-existing ill health before the birth of the child between the two groups of parents but found that one of the main contributing factors to the increased risk of depression was parental reports of child problem behaviours such as hyperactivity.”

The study, which was published in the international journal Research in Developmental Disabilities, was undertaken by Dr Stephen Gallagher from the Psychology Department and Professor Ailish Hannigan from the Graduate Entry Medical School, UL.


Depression and chronic health conditions in parents of children with and without developmental disabilities: The growing up in Ireland cohort study, Authors: Stephen Gallagher, Ailish Hannigan, Research in Developmental Disabilities – doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2013.11.029

University of Limerick