Adolescents and young adults with physical illness: a comparative study of psychological distress

Acta Paediatr. 2014 Jan;103(1):e32-7. doi: 10.1111/apa.12429. Epub 2013 Oct 31.


Aim: There is limited research investigating the relationship between physical illness and psychological distress among adolescents during the transition to young adulthood. This study examined risk for clinically relevant psychological distress over a 10-year period comparing adolescents and young adults with asthma or epilepsy with healthy controls.

Methods: This research used data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2009) to compare healthy 16 to 25-year-olds (n = 7342) with individuals with asthma (n = 1798) and epilepsy (n = 117). Psychological distress was measured using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire. Controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, generalised linear modelling was used to examine risk of psychological distress over time.

Results: Using healthy individuals as the reference category, prevalence ratios for psychological distress among individuals with asthma and epilepsy ranged from 1.1 to 2.7 and 2.3 to 7.0, respectively. Controlling for potential confounding factors (sex, marital status, employment status, income), risk for psychological distress was increased among individuals with asthma (OR = 1.94, p < 0.0001) or epilepsy (OR = 3.45, p = 0.0002) compared with healthy controls during the follow-up.

Conclusion: Recognizing the increased risk among individuals with physical illness, paediatric and adult health professionals are well positioned to facilitate successful transition to adult health services and prevent or reduce psychological distress in this vulnerable population.

Keywords: Adolescence; Asthma; Epilepsy; Risk factors; Transition-of-care.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult