Childhood Asthma Increases Risk of Mental Health Problems

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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  • pam k

    pam k

    August 29th, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    any thought given to the oxygen deprivation that they could suffer from? or even the time that they could be missing from school?

  • Tobin


    August 30th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    My thoughts on this are that it isn’t the fact that you could have childhood asthma that could cause later in life issues. I think that if I am reading this right I see that if you grow out of it then there is no correlation between childhood asthma and greater problems later on. However if the symptoms continue to worsen and plague you as an adult then there are going to be other correlating health problems that will begin to manifest in life. This sounds just about right to me. If you have the ability and the good fortune to overcome something from an early age then it is less likely to have a lasting impact on you in a negative way; however of you live with something all the time year after year then eventually it could take its toll on you and begin to wear you down even more so physically and mentally as we see here. And again. I hope that we remember that just because one is vulnerable does not make it inevitable.

  • holly


    August 31st, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Thank you for your comment. It really made me think! My daughter had her first asthma attack at 2 months. That fist year was an absolute nightmare! I struggled with Drs believing the issues i was experiencing with my daughter. I would research lung diseases/illnesses and discuss my findings. More then once i was told that she was too young it had to be some thing more then asthma and she would be subjected to more tests. Which I couldn’t refuse because what if they were right!? Anyway, long story short, i was right. It was simply asthma. Finally officially diagnosed at around 18 months.
    Now that she is 10, it’s much more controllable. I would not classify it as severe anymore, maybe mild. She flares during season change, when she gets a cold or exercising for extended times. I thank you for your comment because I’m totally using this experience to boost her ego. “you’ve beaten asthma. You can do anything!” Type of thing. It may seem silly, but in this day and age when bullying and expectations for bodies to be perfect are so prevalent, a pre-teen/teen girl can use all the help she can get!

  • Ronnie


    September 1st, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    But if diagnosed early, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are so many treatment options available that could help children with asthma lead normal lives without feeling like they are having to give up part of their childhood.

  • Phil


    March 13th, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    I wonder if any consideration has been given to the effect on young children of prolonged, repeated and regular choking and suffocation? What reactions and mechanisms might a child develop to cope with those experiences?

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