For adults with asthma, missing at least one day of work or usual activities was associated with an increased risk of depression, regardless of factors such as sex, age, income, time since last asthma symptom, or difficulty sleeping due to asthma. Adolescents who had an asthma attack in the past year were 40% more likely to report being depressed or sad most days when compared to those who did not have an asthma attack. Among adolescents who missed 1-3 days of school in the past year due to asthma, this percentage increased to 49%. Missing school may explain why having an asthma attack is associated with a higher risk of depression.
“Our study shows that the ramifications of poorly controlled asthma impact individuals beyond just the physical health effects of an asthma attack. Having to miss important events in one’s life, like school or work, because of asthma symptoms can directly impact one’s mental health too,” said Holly Uphold, UDOH epidemiologist and lead author of the study.
Additional findings of the study included:
- Adolescents who had an asthma attack in the past year had a higher rate of being depressed or sad most days during the past year (44.2%) when compared to those who had not had an attack in the past year (35.4%).
- Adolescents who missed 1-3 days of school in the past year due to asthma (51.6%) had a higher rate of being depressed or sad most days in the past year than those who missed zero days of school (40.0%).
- Adults with asthma who had symptoms in the past 1-7 days (41.2%) or who had symptoms in the past 8 or more days (42.8%) had a higher prevalence of depression than the general population who reported ever being told by a health care professional he/she was depressed (21.8%).
- Those who could not afford their asthma medication (56.1%) had a higher rate of being depressed than those who could afford their asthma medication (34.8%).
- Adults who limited their usual activities a moderate amount or a lot due to asthma in the past year (52.5%) had a higher rate of being depressed than those who reported no limitations or only a few (33.4%).
- Adults who missed at least one day of work or usual activities due to asthma within the past 12 months (50.0%) had a higher rate of being depressed than those who missed no days (33.5%).
“Health care professionals should take into consideration how asthma symptoms may impact their patient’s quality of life and mental health,” said Nichole Shepard, UDOH Asthma Program Manager. “We recommend health care providers regularly screen their patients for depression using PHQ-9 or another validated depression tool.”
The UDOH also recommends that health care providers ensure patients with asthma have a treatment plan in place for both asthma and depression. Asthma patients should also be monitored regularly for both conditions in order to determine the most effective treatments.
To learn more about the connection between asthma and mental health, download a copy of the Asthma Mental Health Report at www.health.utah.gov/asthma.
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