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Relationships between asthma and mental illnesses exist in both directions

Published: December 05, 2022

Asthma and mental illnesses are common chronic conditions frequently seen in the same individuals more often than would be expected by chance. Previous studies have mainly looked at specific types of mental illnesses and examined the associations in one direction only (for example, mental illness occurring in individuals with prior asthma). Studies have often reported the associations between mental illness and asthma for both sexes combined rather than for males and females separately.

In a recent paper published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Dr. Liu and colleagues conducted a cohort study in Denmark, comprehensively assessing the associations between asthma and 10 mental disorders in both directions. This study used Danish nationwide registers and included all individuals born in Denmark between 1955 and 2011. Individuals with mental illness were identified based on diagnoses and individuals with asthma from both diagnoses and antiasthma prescriptions. The risk of diagnosis with each mental disorder among individuals with asthma was compared to the risk among individuals without asthma, and vice versa.

In the study of over 5 million individuals, 376,756 were identified as having an incident mental illness and 364,063 incident asthma. The study found increased risks for various pairs of mental diseases and asthma in both directions. For individuals previously diagnosed with asthma, the risk of developing subsequent mental illnesses was higher than for those without asthma: ranging from 1.75 (organic disorders) to 2.75 times higher (personality disorders). Similarly, individuals who had a prior diagnosis of mental illness had an increased risk of developing asthma compared to those with no mental illness: ranging from 1.06 times higher (developmental disorders) to 2.33 times higher (substance use disorders). These risks varied depending on the time since the prior diagnosis of the disorder but remained consistently elevated. Slightly stronger associations were generally observed among females. Vigilance for mental illnesses in patients with asthma and asthma in patients with mental conditions is warranted.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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