Stress Can Contribute to asthma in Children
Children in today's society are subject to a lot of stress that can
lead to a whole host of ailments, which now includes the possibility of
asthma. Living in households with a high stress level could put children
more at risk for asthma that is associated with environmental triggers
such as traffic-related air pollution and exposure to the smoke from
According to a recent study, children who had a regular exposure to
the pollution from traffic exhaust and lived in households with the most
stresses were approximately 50 percent more likely to develop asthma
than those children living in low-stress homes. The study researcher,
Rob S. McConnell, M.D., from the University of Southern California Keck
School of Medicine, said that the stress, however, did not have a big
influence on the risk of asthma when the environmental trigger was
absent. "It is well known that pollution can cause inflammatory effects
in the lungs, and inflammation is a cardinal feature of asthma. Stress
can also have a pro-inflammatory effect, so it is certainly plausible
that the impact of stress and air pollution together might be worse than
either on by itself."
The study included approximately 2,500 children that were between the
ages of 5 and 9 enrolled in a larger study that was examining the effect
of air pollution on respiratory health.
At the time of enrollment, none of the children had evidence of
wheezing or asthma, and all of them were followed for a period of three
years.As one marker for childhood stress, which is not easily measured
directly, the parents completed questionnaires that examined their own
stress levels. The researchers also collected other information such as
exposure to cigarette smoke, characteristics of the household, and
education of the parents, which is an indicator of socioeconomic status.
During this three-year study, 120 of the children developed asthma.
Although the stress alone did not appear to increase the risk of
asthma, McConnell and his colleagues from USC and Toronto's St.
Michael's Hospital found that the combination of living in a stressful
household and living near high levels of pollution that is
traffic-related was a larger risk factor for asthma than living in a
high traffic area alone.
Also, the children whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant were
also more likely to develop asthma when their household was stressful.
McConnell stated, "This research provides some new clue about what
might be contributing to this complex disease that almost certainly has
According to the Center for Disease Control, the prevalence of asthma
increased by approximately 75 percent between the years of 1980 and
1994, and the rates of asthma among children that were under the age of
5 increased by more than 160 percent during this time period.
Approximately 300 million people around the world are estimated to
suffer from asthma, an the World Health Organization projects that this
number will grow to approximately 400 million by the year 2025.Asthma
researcher David B. Penden, MD, from the University of North Carolina,
said that it is increasingly clear that the exposure to environmental
pollutants such as smoke from cigarettes and traffic exhaust can trigger
asthma symptoms in the people who suffer from the disease.
There is also a growing body of evidence that these exposures play a
role in the development of asthma in people who do not suffer from the
The research that was done by McConnell and his colleagues is among
several studies done recently to suggest a role for stress in the
development of asthma. He said, "We are beginning to learn a lot about
the role of stress on a host of different diseases related to immune