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The Informed Parent

Is Asthma Related To Depression?

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Oct. 11, 2006

Recently researchers have examined a correlation between asthma and depression or anxiety. As reported in the August 2006 issue of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry investigators at the SUNY Buffalo state that adults with asthma have been known to have elevated rates of depression. Furthermore, it has been commonly noted that emotional factors affect the course of asthma by reducing medication and treatment adherence. It has also been proposed that medical treatment for depression may alter the inflammatory process in asthma. It may improve respiratory functioning in children and adults with asthma. Recent work has also examined the relationship between elevated levels of depression and anxiety with asthma severity.

An analysis of depression in chronically ill children found elevated rates of depressive symptoms in asthmatic children. However, these depressive symptoms were not associated with disease severity. The investigators found that pediatric depression scores were elevated compared to population norms. Most depression cases were of mild-to-moderate severity with no child requiring emergency psychiatric services. The patient's depressive symptoms appeared to be associated with asthmatic disease activity. More children identified themselves as depressed when their asthma worsened. Furthermore, some 43 percent of mothers scored in the depressed range, but parent depression was not correlated with their child's asthma activity.

The clinical significance of this study is that identification of treatable conditions which may worsen asthma activity, such as depression, is very important. Depressive symptoms in the asthma patient's parent is also significant and is associated with the child's depression. Improving the patient's and parent's depression may improve the patient's asthma, as well. See your pediatrician for more information or a referral.

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