Parents of Children With IBD May Have Anxiety and Depression Symptoms Years Into Their Child’s Disease Course

Investigators assessed rates of symptoms of distress in parents of children with inflammatory bowel diseases and how the rates change over the child’s disease course.

Parents of children with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) were found to have increased symptoms of distress, continuing over the course of their child’s disease, according to research presented at the Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (AIBD) 2021 Annual Meeting, held from December 9 to 11, 2021, in Orlando, Florida and virtually.

Previous research has identified a pattern of elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety among parents of children with IBD. This study aimed to better assess how these symptoms change over the disease course of their children.

Investigators from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in the United States recruited parents (N=155) of children with IBD aged 2 to 17 years for this cross-sectional study. Stratified by diagnosis time (<6 months vs >1 year), parental distress was assessed using the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Short Form v1.0-Anxiety (PROMIS-ANX), Patient Health Questionnaire-8 (PHQ-8), and Impact of Event Scale Revised (IES-R).The parents’ children were recently diagnosed (n=52) or had established IBD (n=103).

Clinically elevated PROMIS-ANX scores were observed among 52% of the newly diagnosed cohort. There was no significant change in PROMIS-ANX scores during the transition from newly diagnosed to established disease (mean, 3.77 vs 3.74; P =.220).

Depression scores were clinically elevated among 45% of the parents of newly diagnosed children. Similar to anxiety, the transition to established disease did not affect depression scores (mean, 1.426 vs 1.346; P =.266).

For IES-R, parents of children who were recently diagnosed were more distressed compared with the parents of children with established disease (mean, 2.03 vs 1.62; P =.017).

Additional stratification of parents with children diagnosed <3 months (n=37) and >5 years (n=41) previously found no difference between cohorts for PROMIS-ANX (P =.371) or PHQ-8 (P =.605) scores but a significant change in IES-R scores (P =.0478).

This study found that parents of children with IBD had clinically elevated anxiety and depression scores. There did not appear to be a temporal pattern to their anxiety or depression, remaining elevated even years after their child’s diagnosis. For distress measured by IES-R scores, there did appear to be a temporal pattern, with a reduction in concordance with time since diagnosis. Additional studies are needed to assess potential interventions to mitigate the negative impact on parents.


Kevin C, Sandra K, Noll R. Parental distress in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease. Presented at: AIBD 2021 Annual Meeting; December 9-11, 2021; Orlando, FL and virtual. Abstract P023.

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor