Although many children develop asthma early in life, a large number of them outgrow “childhood asthma” by adolescence. But for those who have persistent asthma symptoms, and severe symptoms, the risk of mental health problems is high. According to the results of a recent study conducted by Renee D. Goodwin of the Department of Psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York, children who have asthma that persists through adolescence are more likely to develop several psychological issues than children who never had asthma. Additionally, Goodwin’s study shows that children who outgrow early asthma, even by pre-adolescence, outgrow the increased risk associated with the asthma.
For her study, Goodwin looked at children with asthma at age 5 and assessed whether their asthma increased their vulnerability for anxiety and affective issues through age 17. She found that severe asthma that did not go away as the children matured was associated with higher risk of somatic problems, affective issues, anxiety, conduct issues, and oppositional defiant behavior.
However, children with chronic mild asthma were no more vulnerable than those who never had asthma. Another interesting finding was that although children who outgrew asthma as they aged were less likely to develop the previously mentioned psychological problems, they still had an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity when compared to children with no history of asthma.
The reasons for increased vulnerability to ADHD are unclear, and Goodwin believes that that finding warrants further exploration. However, she also noted that existing data that suggests all children with asthma be screened for mental health problems may be misguided. Instead, she proposes that perhaps children with asthma be monitored closely during early childhood for a range of mental issues. Then, as they age, their asthma severity and chronicity should be considered as an indicator for psychological evaluation. She added, “Youth with poorly controlled and/or more severe and persistent asthma may be considered a vulnerable group who might benefit from mental health screening in clinical, school, and community settings.”
Goodwin, R. D., et al. (2013). Severity and persistence of asthma and mental health: A birth cohort study. Psychological Medicine43.6 (2013): 1313-22. ProQuest. Web.
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