Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Parents of Children with Autism in Oman: A Case-Control Study
There is an increasing evidence supporting the notion that caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) suffer from increased risk of psychological disturbances. Nonetheless, results are not consistent with regard to prevalence rates and types of psychological disturbances. In particular, the evidence exploring this topic among Arab communities is almost lacking.
To describe patterns of stress, depression, and anxiety among parents of children with ASD among an Arab population in Oman, compared to parents of non-ASD children.
A population-based case-control study has been conducted on 122 parents of ASD children and two control groups: 90parents of typically-developed children(TD group) and 81 parents of children suffer from intellectual disabilities other than ASD (ID group). Stress, anxiety, and depression among study groups have been assessed using a validated and standardized Arabic version of The Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21).
Overall, the proportion of parents of children with ASD who suffer from stress was 46%, which was higher than that reported among parents of TD group (33%) and ID group (37%). The difference was statistically significant (P-value 0.04). Compared to control groups, parents of ASD group who suffer from anxiety were proportionately higher (43% vs. 26% and 25%) and the difference was statistically significant (P-value 0.001). Similar pattern was also observed in terms of reported depression (70% vs. 35% and 36%) and the difference was statistically significant (P-value 0.02). The mean score of stress, depression and anxiety have been significantly greater among parents with ASD compared to parents with intellectual disabilities, and typically developing children.
The study provides suggestive evidence of increased risk of stress, anxiety, and depression among parents of ASD children compared to parents of children who are free of ASD. It calls for giving more emphasis to the psychological well-being of parents of ASD children.