Does it seem like kids are getting unhealthier? According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today, they are. Researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children found that the prevalence of chronic health conditions like obesity, asthma and behavior or learning problems rose from 12.8 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006.
The reasearchers followed 3 consecutive cohorts of children from 1988 to 1994, 1994 to 2000, and 2000 to 2006. Children were ages 2 to 8 at the start of each study period, and the numbers in each cohort ranged from 2337 in the first group to 905 in the second.
They looked for reports from parents of a child having a health condition “that limited activities or schooling or required medicine, special equipment, or specialized health services and that lasted at least 12 months.” Almost 12 percent of the first group of children had a chronic condition at the beginning of the study, while almost 13 percent did at the end. In group 2 those numbers were 16.6 percent and 25 percent, and 25 percent and 26 percent in group 3.
The latest group had the highest prevalence of having a chronic conditon at any point in the study, with fully half exhibiting a one at some point.
However, the good news is that most children who started the study with a chronic condition had outgrown it by the end. Only 7 percent across all three groups who reported a chronic condition at the beginning of the study reported one at the end.
The authors of the study conclude, “Chronic conditions in childhood are common and dynamic, underscoring the benefits of continuous, comprehensive health services for all children to adjust treatment of chronic conditions, promote remission, and prevent onset of new conditions. Future research should examine etiological differences between persistent and remitted cases.”