Children with cerebral palsy at higher risk of mental illness, suggests study

Children with cerebral palsy are more at risk of mental health disorders, a new study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Michigan, suggests that children with the lifelong condition are exposed to higher levels of pain and a lack of sleep, potentially worsening their mental wellbeing.

The study looked at 111 children from six to 17 years of age with cerebral palsy and 29,909 children without the disorder using a 2016 survey of children’s health.

The researchers assessed physical activity, sleep duration and pain in children with cerebral palsy, comparing their results and the prevalence of mental illness, including anxiety, depression and behavioural problems, to children without the condition.

Significantly, it was found that the risk of having a mental health disorder was around 3.8 times higher in children with cerebral palsy.

The researchers concluded that children with the condition, which commonly affects mobility and speech, had a significant lack of physical activity, a higher prevalence of pain and slept for less than the recommended age-appropriate hours than children without cerebral palsy.

Commenting on the findings, the researchers wrote: “Children with cerebral palsy have an elevated prevalence of mental health disorders even after accounting for physical risk factors.

“Physical activity and pain accounted, at least in part, for the association between CP and depression and accounted for a portion of the association between CP and other mental health disorders.”

It is estimated that around one in every 400 babies born in the UK have a type of cerebral palsy.