Background Experiencing the onset of a chronic disease is a serious health event impacting living conditions and wellbeing. Investigating wellbeing development and its predictors is crucial to understand how individuals adapt to chronic illnesses. This study (i) analyzed the impact of a chronic disease on wellbeing development, and (ii) explored spatial healthcare access as potential moderating factor. Methods Data were obtained from the German Socio-economic Panel, a nationally representative household survey. A prospective sample of 3847 individuals was identified for whom the onset of cancer, cardiopathy, diabetes or stroke was observed between 2008 and 2020. Mixed models using an interrupted time series approach were performed to identify immediate level changes and longitudinal trend changes in wellbeing (operationalized with health and life satisfaction) after disease onset. Further, spatial access to healthcare (operationalized by two-stage floating catchment area measures) as potential moderating factor was examined using interaction effects. Results Chronic disease onset had an immediate negative level impact on health and life satisfaction. For health satisfaction, a negative pre-onset wellbeing trend was offset (but not reversed). A small positive trend was observed for life satisfaction after disease onset. Spatial access to healthcare was not associated with the magnitude of wellbeing reduction at onset. Conclusions Health and life satisfaction levels drop with the onset of a chronic disease with no recovery trend for health and little recovery for life satisfaction, implying persistently lower wellbeing levels after a chronic illness onset. Spatial access to healthcare does not affect the wellbeing change after disease onset.
Keywords: diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular accident, heart diseases, ischemic stroke, cancer, catchment area (health), chronic disease, socioeconomic factors