Chronic health conditions, mental health and the school: A narrative review

Kevin Runions, Rena Vithiatharan, Kirsten Hancock, Ashleigh Lin, Christopher Brennan-Jones, Caitlin Gray, Donald Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Children and adolescents with chronic physical health conditions are also at elevated risk of poor mental health; the mechanisms to account for this relationship remain unclear. In this narrative review, we used the socio-ecological model to examine research on experiences of school for children with chronic health conditions and how socio-ecology might be involved in mental health problems.
Design: We conducted a scoping review of the existing literature, focused on hearing loss, cystic fibrosis and type 1 diabetes, which examined child and/or adolescent mental health and aspects of the school social setting.
Method: PubMed and ScienceDirect databases were searched for the three target conditions; from 353 abstracts, 38 articles were reviewed in detail.
Results: Relevant articles that examined social aspects of the experience of school for students with chronic health conditions, including absenteeism due to illness or healthcare, self-perceived difference from peers, stigmatisation and discrimination, bullying and victimisation, and positive aspects of peer support at school were reviewed. Teacher–child aspects including teacher knowledge and/or attitudes about the condition and the possibility of overdependence in the relationship were examined. Each of these processes was considered for its impact on the young person’s mental health.
Conclusion: School-based social risk processes in the lives of young people with chronic health conditions, in particular in the peer microsystem, are likely to contribute to risk of psychological problems. These risks cannot be disentangled from mesosystemic, exosystemic and macrosystemic influences. Further research is required on the role of teachers and parents in the school social functioning of children with chronic health conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-483
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number4
Early online date5 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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