Objectives: We used Canadian population-based data to examine changes in the health of caregivers of children with complex health problems compared with caregivers of healthy children over a 10-year time period.
Methods: The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth collected data biennially from 9401 children and their caregivers in 6 waves from 1994-1995 to 2004-2005. We conducted growth-curve analyses of these data to model self-reported general health and depressive symptoms for 4 groups of caregivers: caregivers of healthy children, and caregivers of children with 1, 2, or at least 3 of 4 conceptually distinct indicators of child health problems. We modeled covariates for children (age, gender, only-child status) and caregivers (age, gender, education, income, marital status).
Results: After we controlled for covariates, caregiver health outcomes worsened incrementally with increasing complexity of child health problems. Change in self-reported general health and depressive symptoms over the 10-year period was consistent across all groups of caregivers.
Conclusions: Poorer health among caregivers of children with health problems can persist for many years and is associated with complexity of child health problems. Attention to parental health should form a component of health care services for children with health problems.