ADVERTISEMENT

When Melancholia Adds To Breathlessness: Is There A Link Between Asthma And Depression?

Asthmatics often suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. Why that is the case has now been investigated in twins. Now they also know the role genes are playing here.

As if it wouldn’t be enough that once in a while the bronchia narrow until breathing air becomes difficult, for instance when the bar is crowded at night with smokers or one has to rush for the bus. Sometimes panic accompanies asthma or the dark shadow of melancholia. There are hints that asthmatics suffer more often from depression and anxiety disorders than otherwise healthy people.

ADVERTISEMENT

Swedish scientists wanted to know whether asthma can be responsible for a psychiatric disorder, and what role genes may play here. Sandra Tendner and her colleagues (1) from the Karolinska Institute Stockholm evaluated for this the data from more than 25,000 monozygotic and dizygotic twins. And indeed, asthmatic twins suffered more often from depression and anxiety disorders. However, the next generation was not affected by the disorder of the air passage. Genes seem to not be responsible for it, and neither other familial factors. But maybe it is the disease itself that makes patients responsive.

For some time now, scientists noted an association between Asthma and psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. But how this may occur remains a puzzle. Twin studies are ideal to find out the role genes may play. Since the gene pool of monozygotic twin pairs is identical to (nearly) 100%, while the agreement is only 50% in dizygotic twins.

The twins in the study were between 20 and 47 years old and were part of the Swedish Twin Registry. Some years ago a major part of them had provided health information in telephone interviews and online surveys. Patients and prescription registries provided further information. In poly-generational registries, the scientists found that the twins were parents of nearly 33,000 children. With their help, they wanted to investigate whether asthma maybe not only increases the risk of those affected by depression and anxiety disorders but also that of their off-springs.

Two issues draw their attention during the evaluation: of the 1,465 twins with a diagnosis of asthma, 25% also suffered from a severe depression and around 7% from an anxiety disorder. In contrast, of those 23,220 twins without asthma, only 15.5% had a depression and 3,6% an anxiety disorder.

ADVERTISEMENT

Genes seem to play a minor role here. Since when they compared to their twin pairs they noted a similar pattern, irrespective of whether twins were monozygotic or dizygotic. This was found to be also in agreement with the fact that children of depressive or anxious mothers were affected in only 6.7% of cases.

Other family factors could also be excluded to be responsible for these results. Scientists currently think that asthma itself makes people susceptible to develop depression and anxiety, e.g. via the immune system and the brain-body stress axis. Other factors that may play a role may be other diseases, whether and how frequently someone smokes, or the treatment of asthma. In fact, certain asthma medications may occasionally induce depressive episodes as adverse events. Altogether, the scientists noted, the number of asthma-affected twins was rather small and requires the results to be confirmed by further studies.

This is part 3 of a series covering twin health provided by Paul Enck from the¬†T√ľbingen University Hospital¬†and science writer Nicole Simon.

References:

  1. Tedner SG, Lundholm C, Olsson H, Almqvist C. Depression or anxiety in adult twins is associated with asthma diagnosis but not with offspring asthma. Clin Exp Allergy 2016;46:803-12.

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments

READ THIS NEXT

The Impact Of Insulin Resistance On The Course Of Bipolar Disorder

Type 2 diabetes is two to three times more prevalent among people with bipolar disorder than among the general population, […]

Roasted Barley As A Safe, Ingestible Contrast Enhancer For Photoacoustic Imaging

Photoacoustic imaging, which uses optical contrast for ultrasound detection, is currently the fastest-growing field in the area of biomedical imaging […]

Changes In Gut Bacteria Due To Household Cleaners Linked To Higher Risk Of Obesity In Toddlers

In the modern world, a greater emphasis on cleanliness has resulted in the proliferation and frequent use of household disinfectants […]

The Largest River In The World

The largest river in the world is either the Amazon River or Nile River, depending on how you measure it. […]

Nitric Oxide And Hydrogen Sulfide Cross-Talk For Blood Vessel Wellness

The importance of the gaseous transmitter nitric oxide (NO) was definitely recognized by the 1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology. Depending […]

Using A Serum-Free Medium To Study cCFU-F

Heart failure is a leading cause of death in developed countries worldwide. It is typically caused by a heart attack […]

The 8 Moon Phases In Order

The 8 moon phases in order are New moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full moon, Waning Gibbous, Last […]

Science Trends is a popular source of science news and education around the world. We cover everything from solar power cell technology to climate change to cancer research. We help hundreds of thousands of people every month learn about the world we live in and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Want to know more?