Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Background: Health anxiety refers to excessive worries about one’s health based on the misinterpretation of bodily sensations or changes as signs of serious illness. There this a growing body of literature exploring health anxiety during childhood and adolescence, albeit our knowledge of health anxiety in this population remains limited. The recent research suggests that children and adolescents are worried about their health, however we know little about the etiology of health anxiety in this population or about this construct in specialized child health populations. Adult research suggests that elevated health anxiety is experienced by individuals with a variety of medical conditions. Improved understanding of health anxiety across childhood and adolescence is critical as such information could facilitate early identification and, possibly, prevent inappropriate and dangerous medical investigations/procedures and unnecessary use of health care resources. The purpose of the present investigation was to explore the relationship between parent and child health anxiety and associated constructs in children and adolescents with congenital heart defects (CHD).
Methods: Participants were 18 parents (89% mothers) and 19 children (7 females and 12 males-ranging from 7-15 years). Children were recruited from the Department of Pediatric Cardiology at a local hospital. Parents completed measures of health anxiety, trait and state anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, and intolerance of uncertainty. Children and adolescents completed similar measures (i.e., measures of health anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty) as well as a measure of DSM-IV anxiety symptoms.
Results: No significant association was observed between parent health anxiety [i.e., Short Form of the Health Anxiety Inventory (SHAI) total score; Salkovskis et al., 2002] and overall child/adolescent health anxiety [i.e., Childhood Illness Attitude Scales (CIAS) total score; Wright & Asmundson, 2003] (r = -.38, p = .12); however a significant association was observed between the CIAS treatment experiences subscale and the SHAI total score (r = -.47, p = .048). No significant associations were observed between child and adolescent health anxiety and measures of parent anxiety sensitivity, state and trait anxiety, or intolerance of uncertainty.
Conclusion: This is the first study to explore the association between parent and child health anxiety and associated constructs in children and adolescents with CHD. Future directions and implications discussed.
Jessica Williams– Undergraduate Studente, University of Regina
Amanda M. Oliver– Research Assistant, University of Regina
Kristi Wright– Associate Professor, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Corey R. Tomczak– Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan
Timothy J. Bradley– Pediatric Cardiologist, University of Saskatchewan
Ashok Kakadekar– Pediatric Cardiologist, University of Saskatchewan
Scott Pharis– Pediatric Cardiologist, University of Saskatchewan
Charissa Pockett– Pediatric Cardiologist, University of Saskatchewan
Marta C. Erlandson– Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan