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Maternal Distress Raises Risk of Childhood Asthma
Date:1/15/2008

, hospitalization or prescription for depression or anxiety during the child's first year of life and beyond.

Almost one in five children included in this study was exposed to maternal distress during their first year of life, according to the study. The prevalence of asthma for the whole study population was 6.6 percent.

After adjusting the data for certain known risk factors, such as a maternal history of asthma, living in an urban area, antibiotic use and more, the researchers found a 25 percent higher risk of asthma in children whose mothers had longstanding depression or anxiety.

Interestingly, the researchers also noted that persistent maternal distress was associated with a 44 percent greater likelihood of childhood asthma in high-income households compared to those in low-income households.

Kozyrskyj said the researchers "don't completely understand this association," and can only speculate as to how maternal distress might increase the risk of asthma. Some possible theories are that mothers who are depressed or anxious may smoke more, breast-feed less, and may not pay as much attention to their offspring, any of which could contribute to the development of asthma.

Others aren't so sure about the importance of maternal distress in asthma.

"There may be something to this. I wouldn't dismiss it, but I wouldn't say this is a cause of asthma. An association doesn't mean cause and effect. This is just one more aspect of a child's environment that needs to be looked at," said Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, section chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit.

"There are so many variables that this really needs to be looked at in a much more controlled study," she said, adding that it would be interesting to also include the father and any other primary caregivers in any future analysis.

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