A Mother's Mind and Her Child's Health

Mothers' depressive symptoms can affect health of their epileptic children

(RxWiki News) Canadian researchers have identified a sort of vicious-cycle relationship between the health of epileptic children and depression in their mothers.

Led by Mark Ferro, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Western Ontario, researchers found mothers with epileptic children are at risk of developing depression. As a consequence of a mother's depressive symptoms, the epileptic child's quality of life can be adversely affected.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. An estimated 12.4 million American adult women suffer from depression. Every year, 45,000 children under the age of 15 develop epilepsy.

One key trigger of depression in parents is the stress associated with raising and caring for a child with a chronic illness such as epilepsy. As mothers are most commonly the primary caregivers, they are at greater risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Ferro and his team surveyed 339 women whose children had been diagnosed with epilepsy. They found that the risk of depression for those mothers ranged from 30 percent to 38 percent at different intervals of the first 2 years after their child's diagnosis.

An analysis of mothers' depressive symptoms, their children's quality of life as it relates to health, and the severity of each child's epilepsy showed that mothers with high amounts of depressive symptoms decreased the health-related quality of life of their epileptic children. Similarly, the less depressive symptoms exhibited by a mother, the greater the health-related quality of life of her epileptic child.

In light of these findings, Ferro suggests that a family-centered approach to caring for a child with epilepsy will likely improve the child's health.

Review Date: 
January 5, 2011