May 28, 2019 04:39 PM EDT
A Director of the University Center for Health Sciences at University Hospital Augsburg (UNIKA-T) and Professor of Environmental Medicine at TUM, Claudia Traidi-Hoffman, along with some scientists, have interviewed over 1,700 people from the Augsburg area of Germany about their allergies. The researchers differentiated between perennial or non-seasonal allergies, including those triggered by house dust mites or animal hair, seasonal allergies caused by grass pollen for example, and allergies to other substances such as food.
Also, the participants of the study answered questions about their psychological health. The focus of the research was on depression, generalized anxiety disorders, which affects all aspects of daily life and acute mental stress.
Katharina Harter, the lead author of the publication, said that there are studies that focus on the psychological components of skin diseases or allergic asthma. For the first time, they are now able to reveal a link with seasonal allergies. Around a quarter of those surveyed (27.4 percent) stated that they suffered from allergies with 7.7 percent reporting perennial, 6.1 percent seasonal, and 13.6 percent other forms of allergic reactions.
As it turned out, individuals with generalized anxiety disorders also suffered more often from pollen allergies, but not from year-round allergies. In the statistics, these were less frequent in the group of anxiety sufferers. A possible explanation for this might be that people with persistent allergies develop different coping strategies to deal with stress, which protect them from anxiety disorders.
There was a positive correlation, on the other hand, between perennial allergies and depression or depressive episodes. The structure of the study, however, did not allow for clarification of whether allergies increase susceptibility to depression or whether depression itself is a risk factor for allergies. The team was amazed at the fact that psychological factors have little if any, influence on the occurrence of food and drug allergies.
The team statistically excluded possible mitigating factors that could compromise causal relationships in this study. These included age, smoking/non-smoking status, gender, and family predispositions such as allergic asthma.
However, Harter also outlined the weakness of the study, explaining that they have a relatively high average age of 61 years, so younger people are somewhat underrepresented in the survey. Also, the results are based on personal reports rather than official allergy diagnoses. But they have blood samples from all participants and intend to verify this point scientifically.
Prof. Traidi-Hoffman claimed that what this study particularly underscored the essence of devoting sufficient time to patients. This is the only way to complement clinical evaluations with psychosocial aspects to support an integrated therapeutic approach, including that practiced by the University Outpatient Clinic for Environmental Medicine at UNIKA-T.
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