Comparative Study on Self-perceived Health of Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Parents of Non-disabled Children in Croatia

Benjak, Tomislav; Mavrinac, Gorka Vuletić; Šimetin, Ivana Pavić
August 2009
Croatian Medical Journal;Aug2009, Vol. 50 Issue 4, p403
Academic Journal
Aim To assess self-perceived health of parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in comparison with those of parents of non-disabled children. Methods A total of 350 parents participated in the study: 178 parents of children with ASD (71% response rate) and 172 parents of non-disabled children matched by age, education, and place of living. Parents' self-perceived health was assessed using the Croatian version of the health status questionnaire SF-36, while socio-demographic information, chronic medical conditions, and needs were assessed by a general questionnaire. Results For all dimensions of health, except physical health, parents of children with ASD had significantly poorer self-perceived health and reported significantly more deteriorated health in the last year than the control group (P < 0.001). They also reported more psychological disorders (11% vs 4.3%), which was the largest difference in specified chronic medical conditions. Hundred twenty six (71%) parents of children with ASD thought that enhancing different policy measures (economic, social, educational) could advance their and their children's health and well-being. Conclusion Parents of children with ASD had poorer health than the control group in all components, except physical health. Because parents are the main providers of support for children with ASD, preserving parents' good health and well-being is a precondition for an optimal care for children. Therefore, current system for treating children with ASD in Croatia should also include permanent improvement of parents' health and well-being.


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