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Chronic Illness Impacts Children's Overall Health, But Not Life Satisfaction


Research in the June 2019 Pediatrics offers encouraging news for the rising number of U.S. children living with a chronic illness that affects their daily function. The study, “General Health and Life Satisfaction in Children with Chronic Illness,” published online May 6, found that while children with a chronic illness have worse overall health as reported by parents, they appear to lead just as happy and satisfying lives as their peers without chronic illness. The researchers combined data from three pediatric cohort studies taking place in 2017 within the National Institutes of Health-funded Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes research program. In total, 1,113 caregivers completed surveys for 1,253 children between ages 5 to 9. Questions focused on their child’s physical, mental, and social health. Results showed that the 20 percent of the children who had at least 1 chronic illness (including roughly 9 percent who had 2 or more) had similar levels of life satisfaction as their healthier peers. The study did identify two factors that lowered both overall health and life satisfaction among with and without chronic illness: “moderate” and “high” psychological stress levels, as well as lower family income. Authors said major advancements in medicine and health care mean that many once-fatal conditions are now treatable, leading to longer life expectancies but also more years living with disease. They said further research is needed on “positive assets” that may strengthen a child’s abilities to adapt to challenges, satisfy needs, and attain goals, all of which promote well-being. 


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds