Adolescents with cerebral palsy rated their overall quality of life as comparable to that of their able-bodied peers, according to a study published in The Lancet.
“Our results are encouraging. Across 10 different areas of life, adolescents with cerebral palsy only ranked their quality of friend and peer relationships as on average lower than adolescents in the general population, challenging the widespread perception that adolescents with disabilities have unhappy, unfulfilled lives,” Allan Colver, professor of Community Child Health at Newcastle University and lead author of the study, stated in a press release.
The study reportedly is the first to track the quality of life (QoL) of young people with cerebral palsy from childhood to adolescence. Using population-based cerebral palsy registers in nine European regions, the researchers selected a representative sample of 431 adolescents with cerebral palsy between the ages of 13 and 17 years.
The adolescents self-reported their QoL across 10 areas over the prior week using a questionnaire. QoL was compared with matched controls in the general population. The authors also examined to what extent childhood factors amenable to intervention — such as pain, psychological problems and parenting stress — predicted adolescent QoL.
Results of the questionnaire revealed that adolescents with cerebral palsy rated their overall QoL as comparable to that of their able-bodied peers. Moreover, they reported better QoL in five areas of life than adolescents in the general population: moods and emotions, self-perception, autonomy, relationships with parents, and school life. Only in the category of social support available from friends and peers did adolescents with cerebral palsy report significantly lower QoL than their able-bodied peers.
In addition, severe motor impairment was associated with poorer QoL in three categories: moods and emotions, autonomy and social support from peers. The authors also noted that pain in childhood or adolescence reduced adolescents’ QoL across eight areas of life, highlighting the importance of pain assessment and management in all children with cerebral palsy. High parenting stress or other psychological problems in childhood also predicted lower QoL in adolescence.
“Clinicians should intervene early in childhood to ameliorate extremes of pain, psychological problems, and parenting stress, for which effective interventions are available,” Colver stated in the release. “Attention should be directed to helping children with cerebral palsy, especially those who are more severely impaired, to maintain friendships with peers, and to develop new friendships as they move into adolescence.”
Colver A. The Lancet, 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61229-0.