Association Between Emotional Disorders and Speech and Language Impairments: A National Population-Based Study


Anxiety and depression are common emotional problems in children and adolescents. This study used a long-term tracking large database to investigate whether the proportion of children who were diagnosed with speech and language impairments were later diagnosed with anxiety or depression were significantly greater than that of matched group of the same age and gender without speech and language impairments. More than 4300 eligible children with speech and language impairments and matched controls were identified and assessed for anxiety and depression. The risk of anxiety and depressive disorders in children with speech and language impairments were examined with Cox regression analyses and adjusting for covariables (gender, age, and comorbidities). The results showed that speech and language impairments were positively associated with anxiety disorders (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 2.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.20–3.76) and depressive disorders (AHR 2.51, 95% CI 1.52–4.13). The number of boys with speech and language impairments was more than twofold that of girls, but boys did not different from girls in the risk of anxiety disorders (AHR 0.95, 95% CI 0.75–1.20) and depressive disorders (AHR 0.72, 95% CI 0.47–1.11). Infantile autism and intellectual disabilities were positively associated with anxiety (AHR 1.54, 95% CI 1.07–2.21; AHR 1.47, 95% CI 1.09–1.98), and the latter was positively associated with depression (AHR 1.83, 95% CI 1.06–3.17). In addition to speech and language impairments interventions, our findings supported the necessity of identification and interventions in anxiety and depressive disorders among children with speech and language impairments from elementary school until youth.

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The authors would like to thank the Chang Gung Medical Foundation, Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (CMRPG6F0281) for funding, and the Health Information and Epidemiology Laboratory (CLRPG6G0042) for comments and assistance in data analysis.


The present study was supported in part by Chang Gung Medical Foundation, Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (CMRPG6F0281) and the Health Information and Epidemiology Laboratory (CLRPG6G0042). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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Y-CL contributed to the study design and revised the manuscript; VC-HC contributed to the study design, statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and contributed equally to the first author; Y-HY and T-YK carried out the statistical analysis and made tables and figures; T-HH and Y-FC critically reviewed the manuscript; K-YH conceptualized the study, drafted the initial manuscript, finalized the manuscript, and took responsibility for the accuracy of the data analysis. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Kuo-You Huang.

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Lee, YC., Chen, V.CH., Yang, YH. et al. Association Between Emotional Disorders and Speech and Language Impairments: A National Population-Based Study. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 51, 355–365 (2020).

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  • Speech and language impairments
  • Emotional disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression