Data analysis links child health and parents’ mental condition

30 Jul 18

Children of parents with mental health problems are more likely to use health services, Health Foundation research has found.

Analysis of data relating to more than 25,000 patients found that children with a parent who has depression were 41% more likely to attend A&E, 47% more likely to be admitted as an inpatient, and 67% more likely to have an outpatient appointment.

It also found higher demand for emergency and general practice care for children of parents who were themselves high users of these services.

The exercise marks the first time a data analytics approach has been used in England to understand children’s use of health care by correlating it with the health of others in the same household.

Adam Steventon, director of data analytics at the Health Foundation, said: “Our research shows that by linking data in new ways we can gain better insight into the link between parental mental health and their children’s use of health care services.

“This may help clinicians identify and offer greater support to those families most in need, helping avoid A&E attendance and the use of other health services where appropriate, and reducing pressure on the NHS.”

He urged the NHS to prioritise mental health services and support better integration of care, and suggested that a whole-family approach to health care appointments could be considered.

The research did not attempt to answer what the link between parents’ mental health problems and their children’s use of health services might be, and said there were several possible explanations.

Depression in a parent could be the result of a prolonged illness in a child, for example.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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