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Asthma and the risk of panic attacks among adults in the community

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2003

Objective. The study was designed to determine the association between self-reported asthma and the risk, persistence and severity of panic attacks among adults in the community.

Method. Data were drawn from waves 1 and 2 of the Baltimore site of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study (N=2768), which included self-report information on asthma, treatment for asthma and panic attacks in 1981 and 1982. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to calculate odds ratios comparing the prevalence of panic attack at baseline and follow-up by asthma status at baseline. Linear regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between self-reported asthma status and the number of panic symptoms during a panic attack.

Results. Self-report asthma was associated with significantly increased likelihood of having panic attacks at baseline (1981) (12·1% v. 7·3%, P<0·05) and of having panic attacks at both baseline and follow-up (15·9% v. 7·3%, P<0·05), compared to those without asthma at baseline. Adults receiving treatment for asthma at baseline had an increased risk of incident panic attacks at follow-up (OR=2·65 (1·11, 6·34)) and at baseline and follow-up (OR=5.88 (2·21, 15.62)), though untreated asthma did not appear to increase risk of incident panic at follow-up. Similarly, the risk of panic at follow-up was not increased among those with asthma at baseline who did not report asthma at follow-up, compared with those without asthma at baseline. Treated asthma was associated with having more panic symptoms during panic attacks, compared to those without asthma (P<0·001).

Conclusion. These findings are consistent with and extend previous results suggesting that self-reported asthma is associated with an increased risk of panic attacks among adults in the general population, and that there is a consistent relation between severity and persistence of asthma and panic attacks. The lack of association between remitted asthma and panic attack may reveal a need for further research to determine whether asthma may be a causal risk factor for panic attacks, or whether a third factor (genetic or environmental) may be associated with increased risk of the co-occurrence of asthma and panic attacks. Replication of these results using alternative methodology with corroborative data on asthma and panic attacks is needed next.

Corresponding author
Dr Renee D. Goodwin, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 43, New York, NY 10032, USA.
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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