Mom's Depression May Worsen Child's Asthma

WEDNESDAY Nov. 25, 2009 -- A mother's depression can worsen her child's asthma, U.S. researchers have found.

Their six-month study of 262 black mothers and their children found that children whose mothers had more depressive symptoms had more frequent asthma symptoms, while children of mothers with fewer depressive symptoms had less frequent asthma symptoms.

The Johns Hopkins Children's Center team focused on black mothers and children because black children are disproportionately affected by asthma. The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

"Even though our research was not set up to measure just how much a mom's depression increased the frequency of her child's symptoms, a clear pattern emerged in which the latter followed the earlier," senior investigator Kristin Riekert, a pediatric psychologist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Adherence Research Center, said in a Hopkins news release.

While the degree of a mother's depression affected her child's asthma symptoms, the reverse wasn't true, the researchers found. This suggests that a mother's depression is an independent risk factor that can predict the severity of a child's asthma.

"Intuitively, it may seem that we're dealing with a chicken-egg situation, but our study suggests otherwise. The fact that mom's depression was not affected by how often her child had symptoms really caught us off guard, but it also suggested which factor comes first," Riekert said.

Because depression often involves fatigue, memory lapses and problems with concentration, it can impair a mother's ability to manage her child's asthma, which may require daily drug treatments and frequent doctor visits, the study authors noted.

"Mom is the one who must implement the doctor's recommendations for treatment and follow-up, and if she is depressed she can't do it well, so the child will suffer," study lead investigator Michiko Otsuki said in the news release.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about childhood asthma.

Posted: November 2009


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