A recent study found that adults with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions, highlighting the need for better holistic care in this population.
The study, “Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders Among Adults With Cerebral Palsy: A Cross-sectional Analysis,” was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Most research on cerebral palsy (CP) focuses on children because, until relatively recently, it wasn’t that common for people with CP to live through adulthood. That paradigm is rapidly changing, so it’s necessary for researchers and clinicians to understand the challenges adults with CP face so they can be given the best possible care and support to have not just a longer life, but higher quality of life.
The researchers behind the new study wanted to determine how common mental health conditions are in adults with CP. To do so, they analyzed data from the 2016 Optum Clinformatics Data Mart, a dataset that contains de-identified health information for 8.7 million adults, including 7,348 with CP. By looking at diagnostic codes, the researchers determined rates of mental illnesses in adults with CP and compared them to the rates in adults without CP. (The researchers noted, however, that the reliance solely on diagnostic codes is an inherent limitation of the study.)
Male adults with CP had higher rates of schizophrenic disorders (2.8% vs. 0.7%), mood affective disorders (e.g. depression and bipolar disorder; 19.5% vs. 8.1%), anxiety disorders (19.5% vs. 11.1%), personality and behavior disorders (e.g. borderline and narcissistic personality disorder; 1.2% vs. 0.3%), and alcohol and/or opioid-related disorders (4.7% vs. 3.0%).
For females, similar trends were seen for all of these disorders; they were more common in individuals with CP than without. The only exception was alcohol and/or opioid-related disorders, the prevalence of which was similar in females with and without CP.
“We found that adults with cerebral palsy had higher age-standardized prevalence of mental health disorders compared to adults without cerebral palsy,” said Daniel Whitney, PhD, a professor at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study, summarizing the results in a news release.
Mark Peterson, PhD, MS, FACSM, also a University of Michigan professor and study co-author, added that “some of these mental health disorders were more pronounced in patients with cerebral palsy [who] also have comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders, such as intellectual disabilities, autism, or epilepsy.”
Peterson said this makes sense because “patients with cerebral palsy have an increased risk for secondary chronic conditions during childhood.”
This study highlights the need for better mental health care for people with CP, the researchers said.
“Clinicians caring for adults with cerebral palsy need to be aware of the increased prevalence of mental health disorders in this patient population,” Peterson said.
Whitney added, “We hope this study highlights the need for improved mental health screenings and access to mental health services and resources for these patients.”