Purpose: To investigate whether adolescents with chronic conditions differ from adolescents without chronic conditions in several psychological outcomes. An additional purpose was to explore whether adolescents with chronic conditions differ as a function of the visibility of their conditions.
Methods: By means of the Adolescent Health Survey, 1683 students (grades 7-12) with a variety of chronic conditions were compared with 1650 students without chronic conditions in regard to emotional well-being, worries and concerns, and body image. Differences in emotional well-being were examined as a function of perception of family connectedness. Comparisons were also made between adolescents with visible and invisible conditions.
Results: Adolescents with chronic conditions had lower emotional well-being scores, worried more about dying soon and about school or future work, and had poorer body image. For students with and without chronic conditions, higher emotional well-being scores were significantly related to higher levels of family connectedness. The best explanatory variables of emotional well-being were body image, family connectedness, concerns about school and future work, having a disability, and worry about peer relationships, accounting together for 36% of the variance in the outcome variable. No differences were found between adolescents with visible and invisible conditions.
Conclusions: Although adolescents with chronic conditions do less well than adolescents without chronic conditions, having a disability is not the most influential factor on emotional well-being. Family connectedness is of fundamental importance for adolescents' emotional health.