The Link Between Allergies, Anxiety, and Depression

German and Swiss researchers have been considering the possible connection between mental health and the presence of various types of allergies. In doing so they’ve discovered that this is something that scientists need to pay more attention to. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that when it comes to the reason behind chronic illness in America today allergies are in sixth place. This leads to healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion per year. They also say that over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies today.

Researchers have discovered that some allergies do affect people’s mental health. For example, Medical News Today discovered that a person who has either asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis is more likely to develop either depression or anxiety. Researchers from Germany’s Technical University of Munich (TMU) have collaborated with other German and Swiss institutions to investigate this even further. In doing so they recruited 1,782 participants between the ages of 39 – 88 who lived in Augsburg, Germany. They took into account self-reported cases of allergies that cause immediate reactions of varying severity once exposed to the allergen.

The Link Between Allergies and Anxiety

In this study researchers differentiated between participants based upon the type of allergy they had. As such, participants were split into four distinct categories: those who had no allergies; those who had seasonal allergies (e.g. pollen); those who had perennial allergies (e.g. animal hair); and those who had other types of allergies (e.g. food, insects). This led to the discovery that 27.4% of people had an allergy, 7.7% of whom said they had a perennial allergy with another 6.1% saying they have a seasonal allergy, and the other 13.6% having another type of allergy.

Researchers then asked these participants additional mental health-related questions that focused on the markers of depression, anxiety, and stress. This led them to conclude that people who lived with anxiety suffered from more seasonal allergies which people with perennial allergies didn’t have. On the other hand, people with perennial allergies tended to suffer more from depression. There isn’t a clear positive association between depression and seasonal allergies though, leaving researchers wondering why this is the case.

Researchers hope that in the future they will be able to conduct additional studies so that they can learn what lies at the heart of these associations. They’d also like to investigate whether specific allergies will increase the likelihood of a person having specific mental health issues or vice versa and why this is the case.

Study Limitations and Future Goals

There were some potentially modifying factors considered in this research including age, gender, whether the person was a smoker, and if they had a hereditary predisposition to allergies. Researchers acknowledge that there may not have been enough diversity in this first study because there were a lot of participants who were 61-years-old. As such, they’d like to look at the younger population who were underrepresented in this study. They also believe that they need to look at more than just a personal report from the participant and possibly take blood samples from everyone who’s involved so they can scientifically verify these findings in the future.

Nevertheless, researchers emphasize that this study’s findings do confirm that there’s a link between seasonal allergies and depression. They say that this is something that doctors need to start paying more attention to both now and in the future.

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