Objectives. We used Canadian population-based data to examine changes in the health of caregivers of children with complex health problems compared with caregivers of healthy children over a 10-year time period.
Methods. The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth collected data biennially from 9401 children and their caregivers in 6 waves from 1994–1995 to 2004–2005. We conducted growth-curve analyses of these data to model self-reported general health and depressive symptoms for 4 groups of caregivers: caregivers of healthy children, and caregivers of children with 1, 2, or at least 3 of 4 conceptually distinct indicators of child health problems. We modeled covariates for children (age, gender, only-child status) and caregivers (age, gender, education, income, marital status).
Results. After we controlled for covariates, caregiver health outcomes worsened incrementally with increasing complexity of child health problems. Change in self-reported general health and depressive symptoms over the 10-year period was consistent across all groups of caregivers.
Conclusions. Poorer health among caregivers of children with health problems can persist for many years and is associated with complexity of child health problems. Attention to parental health should form a component of health care services for children with health problems.