Hay fever linked to increased anxiety and depression risk, research finds

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Natasha Preskey
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A new study has found that people with hay fever, asthma and eczema have a greater risk of developing a mental health problem

People who suffer from hay fever, asthma or eczema have an increased risk of suffering from a mental health problem, new research has found.

A study using data from 200,000 people found that the three conditions are linked with a higher risk of depression and anxiety, reports The Telegraph.

Experts think that inflammation caused by allergic reactions could have a role to play in increasing someone’s chances of experiencing mental health problems, and that stress caused by allergies may also be a factor. 

The study, published in journal Frontiers of Psychiatry, examined health insurance data for people both with and without allergies.

Those with hay fever or asthma had a 10.8% chance of developing a psychiatric disorder over 15-year period, while those without had just a 6.7% chance.

When you suffer from depression - the distress and isolation of a bad hay fever day can feel even more acute. 

“It’s weird, because you get used to it in a way, but having such a roster of allergies and a summer defined by hay fever can be quite exhausting, embarrassing and isolating,” says Jasmine Andersson, 25, who has severe hay fever and asthma.

“I’ve never really thought about the fact that something like my long-term history with depression could be linked to it, but of course it does magnify that isolation and that extra irritation in a day,” she adds.

While the study doesn’t establish a causal link, its authors hope the findings will encourage GPs to be on the look-out for psychiatric issues in patients who are suffering from allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema). 

“I observed that some patients with the three ‘A’s appeared to suffer emotionally,” study lead Dr Nian-Sheng Tzeng told The Telegraph. “Assessing their emotional condition and monitoring their mental health could help to avoid later psychiatric problems.”

James Harris, associate director of communications at Rethink Mental Illness, told the study is “another reminder that mental health and physical health are two sides of the same coin”, and emphasised that we need to “look at the whole person” when treating mental illness.

He added: “Even as our awareness of mental health improves, research into how and why mental illness affects people is still years behind where it should be. Any research that adds another piece to the puzzle is therefore a good thing.” 

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, told The Telegraph the charity is “not surprised” by the findings. While the study is a “step in the right direction”, she added, more research is needed to establish whether there is a causal link.

She said: “We have known for some time that people with long term conditions, like the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, are more likely to experience issues with mental health such as depression or anxiety.”

Visit Rethink or Mind for mental health information and advice

Images: Getty