BACKGROUND: Students living with a chronically ill family member may experience significant pressure, stress, and depression due to their caregiving situation. This may also lead to them delaying or dropping out of school when the combination of being a caregiver and their education program are too demanding. This survey study aims to explore the consequences for students of bachelor or vocational education programs when they are growing up with a chronically ill family member and the influence of various background characteristics and risk factors.
METHODS: A survey was sent to 5997 students (aged 16-25 years) enrolled in bachelor or vocational education programs in the north of the Netherlands. The content of the survey was based on a literature study and consultation with experts. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square tests, and logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: A total of 1237 students (21%) responded to the survey. A sub group of 237 (19%) students (mean age 21(2.2); 87% female) identified themselves as growing up with a chronically ill family member. More than half (54.9%) of these students indicated that they experienced negative consequences in daily life. A significant association (OR .42, p < .02) was found for these consequences and the level of education for which attending vocational education yields a higher risk. In addition, growing up with a mentally ill family member was associated with a 2.74 (p = .04) greater risk of experiencing negative consequences in daily life compared to students living with a family member with a physical disorder or multiple disorders.
CONCLUSION: Since a substantial number of students growing up with a chronically ill family member indicate serious physical, mental, and social consequences as a result of this care situation, awareness for this specific age-group is needed. Students with a mentally ill family member and students undertaking vocational education appear to be especially at risk. Further research is required in order to gain insight that is more in-depth into the exact type of problems that these students encounter and the specific needs that they have regarding support.