Risk of Depression & Anxiety Higher in Adults with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement and is usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during, or after birth. Latest figures from Scope, the national disability charity, has shown that cerebral palsy affects about one in every 400 children in the U.K. It is anticipated by 2031 there will be a threefold increase in the number of people with cerebral palsy over the age of 65.

A new study from the U.K. finds that adults with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety.

However, relatively little is known about the mental health of adults with cerebral palsy.

That led a team of researchers, led by Dr. Kimberley Smith from the University of Surrey and Dr. Jennifer Ryan from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, funded by Brunel University London, to investigate the mental health of those with cerebral palsy and compare it with peers of a similar age, sex, and socioeconomic status, who did not have cerebral palsy.

Intellectual difficulties, which can affect many with the condition, were also examined to determine if they have an impact on the development of depression and anxiety, the researchers noted.

Researchers examined up to 28 years of UK primary care data of 1,700 adults aged 18 or older with cerebral palsy, and 5,115 adults who did not have the condition.

They discovered that the risk of depression was 28 percent higher and the risk of anxiety was 40 percent higher among adults with cerebral palsy who have intellectual difficulties compared to those without the condition.

For those who had cerebral palsy but did not have an intellectual disability, the possibility of developing depression and anxiety increased further, according to the study’s findings. The risk of depression was 44 percent higher and the risk of anxiety 55 percent higher in adults with cerebral palsy who didn’t have an intellectual disability, in contrast to their peers.

“More needs to be done to understand why those with cerebral palsy have a greater risk of developing depression and anxiety,” Smith said.

“People with cerebral palsy face unique challenges as they age, which could be linked to anxiety and depression,” she continued. “This study has allowed us to define the issue. The next step will be to better understand why it happens so we can develop targeted mental health interventions for this population.”

“These findings support the need to consider cerebral palsy as a lifelong condition and to identify and address mental health problems among people with cerebral palsy alongside physical health problems,” added Ryan.

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