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How does spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) impact the mental health of children and young adults? A recent cross-sectional study published in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases sought to answer this question and determine the prevalence and possible contributing factors of anxiety and depression in school-age patients with SMA.

The study included over 150 participants ages 8 to 18 with 5q-linked SMA. Researchers gathered sociodemographic and clinical data on the participants. To screen and evaluate depression and anxiety, the researchers used the Depression Self-Rating Scale for Children (DSRSC) and the Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED). Responses were collected in person, over the phone, or through an online platform.

The researchers examined potentially associated factors, including patient age, gender, and disease type. They also considered academic delay and support, household income level, clinical multisystem dysfunction (respiratory system dysfunction, digestive system dysfunction, and skeletal deformity), and rehabilitation exercise. 

Ultimately, it was found that age, gender, and SMA type were not associated with anxiety and depression. However, multisystem dysfunction, academic delay and support, household income level, and rehabilitation exercise were significantly related to anxiety and depression. 

While focused on a specific, small sample of patients, this study adds insight into the mental health impact of SMA. A call to action is made to further examine these impacts with a larger study population and a psychological scale specific to SMA [1].


[1] Yao, M., Xia, Y., Feng, Y., Ma, Y., Hong, Y., Zhang, Y., Chen, J., Yuan, C., & Mao, S. (2021). Anxiety and depression in school-age patients with spinal muscular atrophy: a cross-sectional study. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13023-021-02008-8

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