Research Finds Link Between Asthma and Depressive Disorders in Children
Young people with asthma are twice as likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders as children without asthma, according to a new study by a Seattle research team including physicians from Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
Young people with asthma are twice as likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders as children without asthma, according to a new study by a Seattle research team including physicians from Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Previous research had suggested a possible link in young people between asthma and some mental health problems such as panic disorder, but this study is the first showing such a strong connection between the respiratory condition and depressive and anxiety disorders. These findings are published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study was conducted by researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute (Children’s), the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM), and Group Health Cooperative. Researchers interviewed more than 1,300 youths ages 11 to 17, who were enrolled in the Group Health Cooperative health maintenance organization. Of the participants, 781 had been diagnosed with or treated for asthma, and the rest were randomly selected with no asthma history.
Researchers found about 16 percent of the young people with asthma had depressive or anxiety disorders, compared to only 9 percent of youth without asthma. When controlling for other possible variables, youth with asthma were about 1.9 times as likely to have such depressive or anxiety disorders.
Researchers tested for several depressive and anxiety disorders including depression, a mood disorder called dysthymia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, social phobia and agoraphobia. These disorders are somewhat common in youth, and are associated with high risk for school problems, early pregnancy, adverse health behaviors like smoking or lack of exercise, and suicide.
Young people with depressive and anxiety disorders often find it harder to manage their asthma and describe more impaired physical functioning because of the combination of asthma and a depressive or anxiety disorder, researchers found. Youth with asthma and one of the disorders are also more likely to smoke, making their asthma more difficult to treat.
“Physicians treating young people with asthma should realize that those children are at greater risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, and should try to educate patients and their families about this increased risk,” said Dr. Wayne Katon, professor and vice-chair of psychiatry at UWSOM, and lead author of the study. “The primary care system is correctly identifying only about 40 percent of the cases in which children with asthma also have a psychiatric disorder. We should improve our screening for these disorders, and develop effective treatment programs for affected patients that address both asthma and the depressive or anxiety disorder.”
In addition to exploring the link between asthma and depressive and anxiety disorders, researchers found other variables that further increase the risk of such disorders. Female respondents were at greater risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, as were youth living in a single-parent household, those who had been diagnosed with asthma more recently, and those with more asthma-related impairment.
The research team also included Dr. Paula Lozano of UWSOM, Group Health Cooperative, and Children’s; Dr. Joan Russo of UWSOM; Dr. Elizabeth McCauley of UWSOM and Children’s; Dr. Laura Richardson of UWSOM and Children’s; and Dr. Terry Bush of Group Health Cooperative.
About Seattle Children’s
Seattle Children’s Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute together deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, and emergency and outreach services to families from around the world.
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Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association work together to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care, clinical care and research. The foundation receives nearly 80,000 gifts each year, from lemonade stand proceeds to corporate sponsorships. Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association is the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, serving as the umbrella organization for 450 groups of people who turn an activity they love into a fundraiser. Support from the foundation and guild association makes it possible for Seattle Children’s care and research teams to improve the health and well-being of all kids.
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