Background: The diagnosis of paediatric cancer is a crisis for the parents who are the primary caregivers of the affected child. A comprehensive assessment of the longitudinal impact of childhood cancer on parental mental health and the potential sex differences between the parents is lacking. Thus, we aimed to explore the subsequent short- and long-term mental health outcomes among the parents of children with cancer and examine whether the outcomes vary between the mother and father. Methods: By combining several Swedish registers, parents of a child (ages 0–14 years) with a cancer diagnosis between Jan 1, 2006, and Dec 31, 2016 were identified. For each parent of children with cancer, up to five mothers or fathers of cancer-free children were randomly selected and matched, respectively. Hospital contacts for any mental health disorders between 5 years before and 7 years after the diagnosis of childhood cancer were retrieved. An interrupted time series negative binomial regression was performed to assess the short- and long-term impact of a childhood cancer diagnosis on the parents’ subsequent mental health outcomes. Findings: 16,199 mothers (2852 with a child with cancer and 13,347 without) and 15,708 fathers (2769 with a child with cancer and 12,939 without) were included in this study. Compared with mothers of children without cancer, mothers of children with cancer had higher risks of mental health disorders in the first year after diagnosis (rate ratio [RR] and 95% Confidence Interval [CI], 1.17 (1.03–1.32)), and notably, the adverse impact became more severe over time (RR and 95% CI, 1.36 (1.07–1.74), in the seventh year). For fathers of children with cancer, the risk of mental health disorders was continuously higher compared to matched comparisons (RR and 95% CI, 1.31 (1.01-1.71)). Interpretation: Our findings suggested that parental mental health was affected continuously by a diagnosis of childhood cancer in their children. In particular, the mother's mental health was affected more severely. Customised psychological services or interventions are highly needed for the parents of children with cancer. Funding: Swedish Research Council, Allmänna Sjukhusets i Malmö Stiftelsen för bekämpande av cancer, Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, ALF funding from Region Skåne and China Scholarship Council.
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- Folkhälsovetenskap, global hälsa, socialmedicin och epidemiologi