[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 5-Jul-2011
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Childhood asthma linked to depression during pregnancy

Inner-city African-American, Hispanic families at risk

July 5, 2011 Anxiety, stress and depression during pregnancy may lead to a greater risk of asthma for your child, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Study results are published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Approximately 70% of mothers who said they experienced high levels of anxiety or depression while they were pregnant reported their child had wheezed before age 5," said Marilyn Reyes, senior research worker at the Mailman School of Public Health's Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH), and lead author of the study. "Understanding how maternal health affects a child's respiratory health is important in developing effective strategies to prevent asthma."

The study of 279 inner-city African-American and Hispanic women was conducted before, during pregnancy and after birth. The findings support a growing body of research showing that exposures can influence the risk of developing asthma. While somewhat similar findings have been reported in non-minority populations, this study is the first to report an association between prenatal psychological stress and wheeze in minority populations.

"The symptoms of pediatric asthma can range from a nagging cough that lingers for days or weeks to sudden and scary breathing emergencies," said allergist/pulmonologist Rachel Miller, MD, Co-Deputy Director of CCCEH and study senior author. "While low-income families experience stressors from many sources that may contribute to adverse health outcomes in children, understanding how children's health may be influenced by these factors is an important step in developing effective interventions."

Common asthma symptoms include:

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The study was supported by a grant of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency.

About the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health

The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health --part of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health -- is a leading research organization dedicated to understanding and preventing environmentally related disease in children. Founded in 1998, the Center conducts research in New York City, including the study of mothers and children in Northern Manhattan and South Bronx, a World Trade Center Study, as well as cohort studies in Krakow, Poland, and Chongqing, China. Its mission is to improve the respiratory health and cognitive development of children and to reduce their cancer risk by identifying environmental toxicants and conditions related to poverty that increase their risk of disease. In NYC, the Center collaborates with residents and partner organizations in Washington Heights, Harlem and the South Bronx to share research findings with the local communities in ways that are meaningful and usable in daily life. The CCCEH is one of several National Centers funded by the NIEHS and EPA and one of three Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically-Oriented Ventures In Environmental Research (DISCOVER) Centers funded by the NIEHS. www.ccceh.org.

About Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University's history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master's and doctoral degrees, and the School's 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness. www.mailman.columbia.edu



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