Scientists link anxiety disorders to seasonal allergies

May 29, 2019

Seasonal allergies to different types of grass or tree pollen are more common in people with anxiety disorders, while patients with depression are more likely to suffer from perennial allergies triggered by animal dander or dust mites. These are the findings of a recent study conducted at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), reports.

Conversely, food and drug allergies do not seem to be triggered by psychosocial disorders.

The research team—led by Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, director of the University Center for Health Sciences at University Hospital Augsburg (UNIKA-T) and professor of Environmental Medicine at TUM— interviewed over 1,700 people from the Augsburg area of Germany about their allergies. The study respondents answered questions both about their allergies and about their psychological health. The focus here was on depression, generalized anxiety disorders—which affect all aspects of daily life—and acute mental stress.

About one- quarter of those surveyed (27.4%) stated that they suffered from allergies, with 7.7% reporting perennial; 6.1%, seasonal; and 13.6%, other forms of allergic reactions.

The researchers found that people with generalized anxiety disorders also suffered more often from pollen allergies, but not from year-round allergies. Statistically, these were actually less frequent in the group of anxiety sufferers. A possible explanation for this might be that people with persistent allergies develop different coping strategies to deal with stress, which protect them from anxiety disorders.

On the other hand, there was a positive correlation between perennial allergies and depression or depressive episodes.

However, the structure of the study did not allow for clarification of whether allergies increase susceptibility to depression or whether depression itself is a risk factor for allergies. What surprised the research team was the fact that psychological factors had little, if any, influence on the occurrence of food and drug allergies.

Possible mitigating factors that could compromise causal relationships were statistically excluded in this study. These included age, smoking/non-smoking status, gender, and family predispositions (e.g. to allergic asthma).

According to Professor Traidl-Hoffmann, what this study particularly underscores is the importance of devoting sufficient time to patients. This is the only way to complement clinical evaluations with psychosocial aspects to support an integrated therapeutic approach.

The study has been published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology.

Research contact: @TU_Muenchen

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