Thursday, December 27, 2012

When parenthood is hazardous to your health

Parents of kids with developmental disabilities are more likely to have high blood pressure, says a new study published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities. The researchers compared 35 parents of kids with autism and Down syndrome to 30 with neurotypical kids.

Parents of kids with developmental disabilities reported higher levels of stress—but researchers didn't find that affected blood pressure, as much as social support did. Parents who reported not having enough support from others were the most likely to have higher blood pressure.

This? Not so surprising if you are a parent of kid with special needs. What's astounding is that researchers haven't yet pinpointed other health issues related to the care of a child with disabilities, like back and neck strain, headache, heart palpitations and an occasional desire to bang one's head against the wall.

My blood pressure's pretty good, but I have to say that lifting Max sure isn't easy on my back. Although I still lift Sabrina, too, and she's got a good ten pounds on him. Come to think of it, she's more likely to make my blood pressure rise.

Parenthood should come with health insurance, right?!


  1. You wonder who much the researchers were paid to discover that that parents with children who have developmental disabilities suffer more stress? HA~!

  2. It floors me how short-sighted insurance companies can be when it comes to providing durable medical equipment that would prevent lifelong injury to caregiving parents. If we can prevent back injuries through lifts, bath chairs, etc., wouldn't that be money well spent? Considering the cost of surgical (and caregiver) options when a parent suffers a severe injury, it seems curious to me that insurance priorities are ranked the way they are...hmmm.

  3. Stress? Blood pressure rising? Really? I never woulda thunk it. I hear you on the palpitations. And anxiety attacks. And back strains. And probably broken jaws & noses & poked eyes from swinging hands, kicking feet & so forth. Of course, I broke my mom's nose as a kid, so it might just be a parenthood thing.

  4. Hi Ellen -- Thanks for sharing this -- I hadn't heard about this study. There are many studies showing negative mental (anxiety, depression) and physical health effects (chronic pain etc) for parents of children with disabilities.

    What infuriates me is that we seem to have tons of evidence but little intervention to try to help mitigate the stresses. We had a national roundtable on caregiver health in Ottawa a couple of years ago, and they presented all of the research. But I couldn't think of one thing that was significantly different since my son was born in terms of supports for parents to help them manage the stress.

  5. Lol! What a hoot! I needed the laugh after this crazy day. :)

    On a more serious note, regular exercise has shown to be one of the keystone habits to battling chronic stress/exhaustion -- it might even keep our backs going for a few more years. For anyone interested "Spark" by John Ratey, MD tells more. And exercise doesn't have to take up even a full hour of your day. Intervals for cardio and build muscle to burn more calories. It has really helped me. :)

    Stepping off the soap box now ...

    ~ Jamie

  6. Now I know why my band director is tired all the time.


Thanks for sharing!

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