Among all of the study participants, the average prevalence of serious psychological distress was 3 percent, but in people with asthma, the rate of serious psychological distress was 7.5 percent, the researchers found.
Adults with asthma who had other chronic conditions, a history of smoking or alcohol use, and those with a lower socioeconomic background had a greater risk of having serious psychological distress, according to the study.
Oraka said that the study wasn't able to tease out whether asthma is a cause of serious psychological distress or whether asthma medications may make serious psychological distress more likely, or whether people with serious psychological distress may be more likely to have asthma or to report having asthma.
"This study found an association, but no causation," Oraka said.
Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, said it was troubling to see that "the prevalence of anxiety or mental distress is higher in asthmatics than normal, and this is something we need to look for and try to prevent and address it."
She said the subject definitely warrants further study, and that she would like to see a study that assesses asthma more objectively. In the current study, asthma was identified by the study participants, who were asked if a doctor had ever told them they had asthma, and if they still had asthma.
But, "even if you have mild asthma, it's definitely an anxiety-provoking diagnosis," Appleyard added.
"As with any chronic disease, asthma needs to be managed carefully by the patients, and serious psychological distress can get in the way of people managing their own asthma," explained
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