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Original Research: ASTHMA |

The Asthma/Mental Health Nexus in a Population-Based Sample of the United States

Thomas H. Chun, MD; Sherry H. Weitzen, PhD; Gregory K. Fritz, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Departments of Emergency Medicine (Dr. Chun), Community Health (Dr. Weitzen), and Psychiatry and Human Behavior (Dr. Fritz), The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI.

Correspondence to: Thomas H. Chun, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Potter 159, 593 Eddy Street, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI 02903; e-mail: Thomas_Chun@Brown.edu


The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/misc/reprints.shtml).

For editorial comment see page 1116


Chest. 2008;134(6):1176-1182. doi:10.1378/chest.08-1528
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Background:  Asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic medical conditions in the United States. The relationship of asthma with psychological factors has been known for centuries, and recently there has been a resurgence of interest in this topic. This study investigates the relationship between current asthma and poor mental health in a nationally representative sample of the US population.

Methods:  This study utilizes data from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (n = 355,710). A multinomial logistic regression model was constructed to assess the relationship between current asthma and poor mental health. The relationship between formerly having asthma and poor mental health was also investigated.

Results:  Persons reporting poor mental health have increased risk of currently having asthma compared to persons reporting good mental health. Additionally, this asthma/mental health relationship has a “dose-response” relationship. For every incremental increase in days of poor mental health, there is a corresponding increase in risk of currently having asthma. Previously reported risk factors for asthma (ie, age, gender, race, marital, smoking, overall health, exercise, obesity, and socioeconomic status) were all found to be important covariates of asthma. The relationship between former asthma and poor mental health is less clear.

Conclusions:  This large, nationally representative sample confirms the relationship between asthma and mental health symptoms. Any degree of poor mental health appears to increase one's risk for asthma. Future research is needed to determine the causal and/or physiologic relationship between asthma and mental health symptoms.


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