Depression May Up Asthma in African-American WomenA new epidemiological study discovers an association between depressive symptoms and adult-onset asthma among African-American women.

Researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) at Boston University have published the study online in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Patricia Coogan, D.Sc., a senior epidemiologist at SEC, and her team followed 31,848 African-American women between 1999 and 2011.

The women are participants in the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) and completed health questionnaires every two years. In 1999 and 2005 they rated the frequency of experiencing 20 symptoms (e.g., “I felt depressed,” I felt lonely,” “I could not get going”).

The 20 answers were summed into a scale ranging from zero (rarely or never experiencing depressive symptoms) to 60 (experiencing all depressive symptoms “most or all of the time”). The scale is commonly used in epidemiologic studies and a score of 16 has been used to identify individuals at high risk of depression.

The results indicated that as the frequency of depressive symptoms increased, the incidence of adult-onset asthma also rose, up to a twofold increase in women in the highest category (score of ≥33) compared to the lowest category (score <16) of the depressive symptom scale.

Furthermore, the incidence of asthma was increased 2.8 times in women who had a depressive symptom score of ≥16 and also reported use of antidepressants.

“Our results are consistent with positive findings from three previous studies of depressive symptoms and asthma incidence conducted in smaller and primarily white populations,” said Coogan.

“The hypothesized mechanism linking depressive symptoms to asthma incidence is depression-related stress and its physiological consequences, particularly effects on the immune system and the airways. Given the high prevalence of both asthma and of depression in women, the association is of public health importance.”

The BWHS is the largest follow-up study of the health of African-American women in the United States.

Led by researchers at the Slone Epidemiology Center, the BWHS has followed 59,000 African-American women through biennial questionnaires since 1995 and has led to a better understanding of numerous health conditions that disproportionately affect African-American women.

Source: Boston University Medical Center