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Asthma Associated With Suicidal Thoughts, Attempts

Anxiety over disability, discomfort may be driving factor, study suggests

FRIDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- People with asthma may be at increased risk for suicidal thoughts with attempted suicide, but not for suicidal thoughts without suicide attempts, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore analyzed data on 5,692 people, aged 18 and older, from the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey Replication.

They found that about 12 percent had a history of asthma. Estimates of lifetime prevalence for suicidal thoughts and attempts without and with asthma were 8.7 percent, 4.2 percent and 12 percent, respectively, and occurred more frequently in women than in men.

Cigarette smoking and concurrent mental health conditions may independently account for a large part, but not all, of the association between asthma and suicidal thoughts with attempts, said the study authors.

After they adjusted for cigarette smoking, concurrent mental health conditions and common sociodemographic factors, they found there was still a significant association between asthma and suicide thoughts and attempts.

"Researchers have speculated that the relationship between asthma and suicidal behaviors is possibly because of ensuring mood and anxiety that results from disability and discomfort associated with asthma, which can be a lifelong disease," the study authors wrote. "Individuals might have frequent thoughts of death with increasing severity solely because they have a potentially life-threatening illness."

The findings suggest that people with asthma who express suicidal thoughts should be referred to mental health services.

The study was published in the May issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about asthma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, May 12, 2008

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