A study published in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that young persons with asthma are twice as likely to have anxiety and depressive disorders than youths without asthma. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle; Group Health Cooperative (GHC); and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute interviewed 1379 youths aged 11 to 17 years enrolled in the GHC HMO. Of the study participants, 781 had received a diagnosis of asthma or had been treated for asthma; 598 participants were randomly selected youths with no history of asthma. The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
The investigators, led by Wayne Katon, MD, professor and vice chair of psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine, tested for several depressive and anxiety disorders, including depression, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia. Approximately 16% of the youths with asthma had depressive or anxiety disorders compared with about 9% of those without asthma. When controlling for other possible variables, the researchers found that youths with asthma were 1.9 times more likely to have depressive or anxiety disorders than the participants in the control group.
The research team also reported that independent factors associated with a significantly higher likelihood of meeting DSM-IV criteria for 1 or more anxiety and depressive disorders included female sex, living in a single-parent household, increased externalizing behaviors, more recent diagnosis of asthma, and more impairment on the asthma physical health scale.
Youths 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, the researchers said. Youths with asthma and one of the disorders are also more likely to smoke, making their asthma more difficult to treat.