Objective To estimate prevalence and persistence of 19 common paediatric conditions from infancy to 14–15 years.
Design Population-based prospective cohort study.
Participants Parallel cohorts assessed biennially from 2004 to 2014 from ages 0–1 and 4–5 years to 10–11 and 14–15 years, respectively, in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
Main outcome measures 19 health conditions: 17 parent-reported, 2 (overweight/obesity, obesity) directly assessed. Two general measures: health status, special health care needs. Analysis: (1) prevalence estimated in 2-year age-bands and (2) persistence rates calculated at each subsequent time point for each condition among affected children.
Results 10 090 children participated in Wave 1 and 6717 in all waves. From age 2, more than 60% of children were experiencing at least one health condition at any age. Distinct prevalence patterns by age-bands comprised eight conditions that steadily rose (overweight/obesity, obesity, injury, anxiety/depression, frequent headaches, abdominal pain, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Six conditions fell with age (eczema, sleep problems, day-wetting, soiling, constipation, recurrent tonsillitis), three remained stable (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy) and two peaked in mid-childhood (dental decay, recurrent ear infections). Conditions were more likely to persist if present for 2 years; persistence was especially high for obesity beyond 6–7 (91.3%–95.1% persisting at 14–15).
Conclusions Beyond infancy, most Australian children are experiencing at least one ongoing health condition at any given time. This study’s age-specific estimates of prevalence and persistence should assist families and clinicians to plan care. Conditions showing little resolution (obesity, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) require long-term planning and management.
- Comm Child Health
- Adolescent Health
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Contributors As guarantor, MW had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication and takes overall responsibility for all aspects of this study and this manuscript. TL, KL, HH, RL and MW determined the aims of the study. TL conducted the analysis of the data with advice from FKM, JM and MHH. TL, KL, RL and MW were involved in the interpretation of data. Authors drafted (TL, KL, RL, MW) or critically reviewed the article for important intellectual content (HH, FKM, JM, MHH), and all have given final approval of the version to be published.
Funding This paper uses unit record data from Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The study is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to any of these three agencies. The following authors were supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council: MW, Senior Research Fellowship 1046518; FKM, Career Development Fellowship 1111160; HH, Career Development Award 607351. MW was also supported by Cure Kids New Zealand. Research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Details have been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.
Ethics approval The Australian Institute of Family Studies Ethics Committee approved each wave and parents provided written consent to participate.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The integrity of the LSAC dataset rests with the Growing Up in Australia study, which makes the data available to researchers under license. TL and MW had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.