Sick Kids Not Prone to Depression
June 02, 2004

South Bend Tribune - Children who have grown up with serious diseases might be expected to grow into adulthood plagued by anxiety and depression. Instead, they become thriving young adults no more prone to major psychiatric illnesses than their peers.

"Although we have historically thought of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses as vulnerable and at risk for adjustment problems, our work has found they are quite resilient," said Cynthia Gerhardt, a pediatric psychologist at Columbus Children's Research Institute in Ohio.

"What we don't see are diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, major depressive disorders," she said.

Gerhardt and colleagues from Columbus Children's Research Institute and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh studied 139 young adults, ages 18 to 20, who had been recruited at ages 8 to 15 for a study of childhood illness. All had been treated for cancer, sickle cell disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers compared them to 146 healthy classmates.

Gerhardt presented the findings May 1 at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco.