Associations Among Allergies, Asthma, and Psychopathology in US Adults

man blowing his nose
man blowing his nose
Researchers found US nationally representative data that showed a history of psychopathology is linked to allergies, but not asthma.

As shown in previous studies, not only are seasonal allergies associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) and panic disorder (PD), they are also associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. However, there was no significant association found between asthma and any of the psychiatric disorders examined.

Researchers in this study used data from the Comprehensive Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys to analyze a sample of adults in the United States (N=10,309) and examine possible associations between a number of common psychiatric conditions and allergies or asthma. The data was also analyzed to assess whether comorbidity between psychiatric conditions confounded the relationship between atopy and each individual condition.

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The Composite International Diagnostic Inventory was used to assess the data for lifetime history of MDD, GAD, PD, and PTSD. History of asthma and seasonal allergies were assessed by self-report. The association between asthma and allergies and psychopathology was evaluated using weighted logistic regression, and psychiatric comorbidities were examined as possible confounders.

Approximately 11.5% of participants had a history of asthma, and 36.6% a history of allergies. Seasonal allergies were positively associated with MDD (odds ratio [OR], 1.24; 95% CI, 1.06-1.46), GAD (OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.28-1.84), PD (OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.24-1.91), and PTSD (OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.09-1.59), while asthma had no significant association with any psychiatric condition examined. All significant associations with seasonal allergies persisted after adjusting for psychiatric comorbidities.

Although the study was limited by self-reporting of age at onset for all disorders and of atopic disorder status, the findings do confirm the association between seasonal allergies and PD and MDD, and extends this relationship to include PTSD and GAD. Study investigators concluded that “[f]urther study is needed to understand the relationship between psychopathology and atopy. Longitudinal examination of underlying emotional, behavioral, and biological systems as they relate to atopy, consistent with the [Research Domain Criteria] framework, are warranted.”


Kelly K, Ratliff S, Mezuk B. Allergies, asthma, and psychopathology in a nationally-representative US sample [published online March 6, 2019]. J Affect Disord. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.03.026