Health department study suggests link exists between asthma, depression

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Thousands of people across Utah have spent the past month raising awareness for two serious conditions: asthma and mental health.

Now, a new study from the Utah Department of Health links those conditions, with findings indicating that both adolescents and adults experience a direct correlation between asthma and mental illness.

“They’re definitely related,” said Holly Uphold, an epidemiologist for Utah Asthma Program. “And, actually, about 36 percent of adults in Utah who have asthma, have depression, which is higher than the depression rate for the general population."

In Utah, 235,000 people deal with asthma every day. But the study reveals that those who have more asthma symptoms tend to experience more mental health issues.

“One of the findings in the study was that people who have asthma, if they reported zero days of asthma symptoms, their depression rate was lower than someone who reported one or more days of asthma symptoms in the past 30 days,” Uphold said.

Researchers say asthma attacks often leave patients feeling isolated or out of control.

“When you have asthma, you may worry about having an asthma attack, and when you do have an asthma attack, it’s hard to breathe,” Uphold said. “You may miss enjoyable activities, you may miss work and school and things like that, and those can have an impact on your life."

UDOH says asthma patients are especially vulnerable this time of year. While allergy and pollen counts are peaking, May is also the start of ozone season, which can lead to bad air. Both conditions trigger asthma attacks, in turn, affecting a person's mental health.

“Having both conditions worsens health [more] than having just one alone,” Uphold said.

UDOH says asthma patients should be aware of daily pollen counts before going outside. If the air quality is bad, they are urged to avoid physical activity between noon and six.

UDOH says all doctors should be screening asthma patients for depression. Talk to your health care provider to come up with a treatment plan for both illnesses.

For more information about asthma and for details on pollen and air quality conditions, click the links below.

Utah Asthma Program

Current pollen count in Utah

Current air quality conditions

Utah ozone season