Newcastle University study shows adolescents with cerebral palsy report similar quality of life to their able-bodied peers

A Newcastle University study is the first to track the quality of life of young people with cerebral palsy from childhood to adolescence

Newcastle University
Newcastle University

Adolescents with cerebral palsy report a similar quality of life to their able-bodied peers, it has been revealed.

Young people with the debilitating condition face multiple challenges, but they rate their quality of life on a par with their able-bodied peers, according to a new study by experts at Newcastle University.

Lead author Allan Colver, professor of community child health at Newcastle University said: “Our results are encouraging.

“Across 10 different areas of life, adolescents with cerebral palsy only ranked their quality of friend and peer relationships as on average lower than adolescents in the general population, challenging the widespread perception that adolescents with disabilities have unhappy, unfulfilled lives.”

The research is published in The Lancet reporting on how adolescents with cerebral palsy from nine European regions feel about life.

Cerebral Palsy is the most common neurodevelopmental physical disability, affecting one in every 400 people in the UK.

The study is the first to track the quality of life of young people with cerebral palsy from childhood to adolescence. Using population-based cerebral palsy registers in nine European regions, the researchers selected a representative sample of 431 adolescents with cerebral palsy aged 13–17 years old.

The adolescents self-reported their quality of life and the authors also examined to what extent childhood factors amenable to intervention such as pain, psychological problems, and parenting stress predicted adolescent quality of life.

Results of the questionnaire revealed that young people with cerebral palsy rated their overall quality of life as comparable to that of their able-bodied peers. Moreover, they reported it as being better in five areas of life than adolescents in the general population, this included moods and emotions, self-perception, autonomy, relationships with parents, and school life.

Only in the category of social support available from friends and peers did adolescents with cerebral palsy report significantly lower quality of life than their able-bodied peers.

For adolescents with cerebral palsy, more severe motor impairment was associated with poorer quality of life in just three categories — moods and emotions, autonomy, and social support from peers.

Importantly, the authors noted that pain in childhood or adolescence reduced adolescent’s quality of life across eight areas of life, highlighting the importance of pain assessment and management in all children with cerebral palsy.

Prof Colver said: “Clinicians should intervene early in childhood to ameliorate extremes of pain, psychological problems, and parenting stress, for which effective interventions are available.

“Attention should also be directed to helping children with cerebral palsy, especially those who are more severely impaired, to maintain friendships with their peers and develop new friendships as they move into adolescence.”

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