Updated 02 August 2017

Depression in asthmatic teens

Teenage asthmatics would like to participate more fully in sports and other school activities, but feel hampered by their disease according to a University of Missouri allergist.


Worse, their self-consciousness could lead them to stop taking their medication, said Dr Chitra Dinakar, an assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Missouri, who is conducting a study of preteen and teenage patients to determine why they stop taking their medicine as they get older.

Teens run out of breath
In an ongoing study of 100 asthma patients, aged eight to 18, Dinakar has found that 40 percent of asthmatics in this group reported that having asthma sets them apart from their healthy peers.

Forty-five percent have felt excluded from school activities, athletics and clubs due to asthma, and more than one-third of respondents feel uncomfortable using inhalers in front of their friends.

Dinakar presented her work on asthmatic teenagers Nov. 14 at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Boston.

It has also been shown in an analysis of US national data that teens with asthma tend to be more depressed and more likely to smoke.

What's more, being depressed increased asthmatic teens' likelihood of using drugs and alcohol, Dr Bruce G. Bender of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre in Denver reports.

Cigarettes are particularly deadly for people with asthma, Bender notes, because smoking can speed lung deterioration and blunt the effectiveness of asthma medications.

To investigate, Bender looked at date from 13 917 high school students participating in the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's 2005 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey.  The students were from 159 high schools in 40 states, providing a nationally representative sample.  A total of 720 subjects currently had asthma.

Asthma, suicide linked
Depressive symptoms, cigarette use and cocaine use were all more frequent in the 5.2 percent of teens with asthma.  Of those who reported that they had contemplated suicide, 67 percent reported using marijuana, 40 percent smoked cigarettes, 37 percent reported binge drinking and 30 had used cocaine in the last 30 days.

Within all race, sex and age groups, the probability of suicidal ideation was approximately doubled in youth with asthma, Bender states.
The high frequency of depression in adolescents with asthma is most likely a consequence of a disease that impedes breathing, interferes with age-level activities, and complicates the adolescent process of developing a self identity different from family, Bender notes in his report.

The findings show that adolescents with asthma should be screened for depression, and that they may also be in greater need for interventions targeted at preventing substance abuse, he concludes.

SOURCE:  Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, October 2007 – (Reuters Health, HealthDayNews)

Updated May 2008


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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