Researchers at the University of Sussex and University College London systematically reviewed evidence from a large number of medical studies, looking for associations between eight chronic physical illnesses in childhood, such as arthritis, asthma and cancer, and emotional problems experienced by the sufferers in later life.
The paper revealed that the sufferers of all chronic conditions reviewed were at increased risk of developing depression or anxiety, emotional problems that persisted beyond childhood and adolescence and into adult life.
The results suggested that mental health prevention and intervention strategies which specifically target chronic illness sufferers in youth could be vital in treating mental health issues before they develop into more serious long term conditions.
Senior researcher Darya Gaysina said that the findings show that childhood chronic physical illness was significantly associated with adult depression in the total sample of more than 45,000 participants.
"In particular, we found that cancer was significantly associated with adult depression. Although the research on other chronic conditions is very limited, when we removed cancer from the sample, the link was still there. So it is not only cancer that's associated with adult emotional problems," Gaysina added.
Gaysina feels that this connection could help mental health practitioners approach young patients with chronic conditions in a different way.
The study is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP).