Chronic illness in childhood affects future income, education and career

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WASHINGTON - Chronic illness in childhood may lead to fewer years of education, more joblessness and lower pay, but it doesn’t affect social ties, suggests a new study.

Researchers, led by Gary Maslow, looked at two sets of interview data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

The study compared participants with childhood illnesses-cancer, heart disease, diabetes or epilepsy-with those who either became ill as adults or who had never had one of the four medical conditions.

As a group, children with long-term illness are “are at very high risk of educational and vocational problems,” said Maslow, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study found significant differences as participants reached adulthood - ages 24 to 32. Children with chronic illness were less likely to graduate from high school, attend college or graduate from college. Only 52.5 percent were employed, compared with 67.5 percent of those with no illness or adult-onset illness.

Income was 5,157 dollars lower on average for those with childhood illness, who were twice as likely to need public assistance during the six-year study period.

“These kids are very socially resilient and do manage to form connections. It may take them longer, perhaps, but by and large they can form those peer relationships. In terms of getting married, having children, living independently and having high-quality romantic relationships, they did as well as kids without significant illness,” said Maslow.

Serious illness can interrupt or interfere with school in a number of ways: absences, debilitating medical treatments or disabilities that result from the disease.

The findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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