The more stress a child is under, the more likely he or she is to suffer from asthma attacks.
That's the conclusion of the British and Finnish researchers who followed 90 children, aged six to 13, with chronic moderate to severe asthma over a period of 18 months.
During the study, these children, who all attended the asthma clinic at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, were interviewed for information about stressful life experiences. Their parents were also interviewed and the results of both interviews were taken into account in the analysis.
The researchers looked at two types of stress what they termed chronic "background stress", such as poor housing, having a family member with a chronic physical or mental condition (including substance abuse), major family discord and serious difficulties related to school, and what they called "severe events", such as the loss of a person close to them (for example, through divorce, separation or death) and the loss of security (for example, through marital break up).
Severe events in the context of chronic background stress significantly increased the likelihood of new asthma attacks.
Most children at risk of chronic asthma attacks are given drugs to deal with the problem. However, this new research suggests that attention to a child's life situation is also an important part of the treatment of asthma (Lancet, 2000; 356: 982-7).