Young adult outcomes of children growing up with chronic illness: an analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011 Mar;165(3):256-61. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.287.


Objective: To examine young adult outcomes in a nationally representative US cohort of young adults growing up with a chronic illness.

Design: Secondary analysis of nationally representative data from wave III (in 2001) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Setting: United States.

Participants: The analytic sample comprised 13 236 young adults aged 18 to 28 years at wave III.

Main exposure: Self-report of a chronic physical illness (asthma, cancer, diabetes mellitus, or epilepsy) in adolescence. Respondents with asthma or nonasthmatic chronic illness (cancer, diabetes mellitus, or epilepsy) were compared with individuals without these conditions.

Main outcome measures: Self-report of high school graduation, ever having employment, currently having employment, living with a parent/guardian, and ever receiving public assistance.

Results: Three percent of young adults had nonasthmatic chronic illness (cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy), and 16.0% had asthma. Most young adults with chronic illness graduated high school (81.3%) and currently had employment (60.4%). However, compared with healthy young adults, those with nonasthmatic chronic illness were significantly less likely to graduate high school, ever have had employment, or currently have employment and were more likely to receive public assistance. Compared with young adults with asthma, those with nonasthmatic chronic illness again had significantly worse young adult outcomes on all measures.

Conclusions: Most young adults growing up with a chronic illness graduate high school and have employment. However, these young adults are significantly less likely than their healthy peers to achieve these important educational and vocational milestones.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Educational Status*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Public Assistance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult