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OBJECTIVES: Methodologically, to assess the feasibility of participant recruitment and retention, as well as missing data in studying mental disorder among children newly diagnosed with chronic physical conditions (ie, multimorbidity). Substantively, to examine the prevalence of multimorbidity, identify sociodemographic correlates and model the influence of multimorbidity on changes in child quality of life and parental psychosocial outcomes over a 6-month follow-up.
DESIGN: Prospective pilot study.
SETTING: Two children's tertiary-care hospitals.
PARTICIPANTS: Children aged 6-16 years diagnosed in the past 6 months with one of the following: asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, food allergy or juvenile arthritis, and their parents.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Response, participation and retention rates. Child mental disorder using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview at baseline and 6 months. Child quality of life, parental symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and family functioning. All outcomes were parent reported.
RESULTS: Response, participation and retention rates were 90%, 83% and 88%, respectively. Of the 50 children enrolled in the study, the prevalence of multimorbidity was 58% at baseline and 42% at 6 months. No sociodemographic characteristics were associated with multimorbidity. Multimorbidity at baseline was associated with declines over 6 months in the following quality of life domains: physical well-being, β=-4.82 (-8.47, -1.17); psychological well-being, β=-4.10 (-7.62, -0.58) and school environment, β=-4.17 (-8.18, -0.16). There was no association with parental psychosocial outcomes over time.
CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary evidence suggests that mental disorder in children with a physical condition is very common and has a negative impact on quality of life over time. Based on the strong response rate and minimal attrition, our approach to study child multimorbidity appears feasible and suggests that multimorbidity is an important concern for families. Methodological and substantive findings from this pilot study have been used to implement a larger, more definitive study of child multimorbidity, which should lead to important clinical implications.