Dysfunctional families and bad neighborhoods may worsen asthma in children and adolescents

Sep 28, 2007

A lack of family support and problems in one’s neighborhood are associated with greater asthma symptoms in children and adolescents, according to researchers in Vancouver, Canada.

Social environment has long been thought to be an important factor in asthma manifestations in youth, but few studies have empirically tested social factors at the family, peer and neighborhood levels and their implications for childhood asthma.

Edith Chen, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, and other researchers set out to determine whether, and to what extent, social factors influence asthma symptoms and lung function. They reported their results in the first issue for October in the American Journal of Respiratory and critical care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

The researchers hypothesized that greater neighborhood problems and a lack of peer and family support would all relate to greater asthma morbidity. Furthermore, they hypothesized that social factors would work by altering either biological systems, such as inflammation, or behaviors, such as smoking.

They recruited 78 children who had physician-diagnosed asthma without other chronic illnesses, and assessed the extent to which youth perceived support from family, support from peers and problems in their neighborhood, such as crime and violence. They measured their lung function using standardized spirometry techniques, and assessed their asthma symptoms based on interviews and daily diaries that the subjects kept. They also assessed behaviors, including smoking and compliance with medications, and evaluated biological markers of inflammation including IgE, eosinophil count and IL-4 production.

The investigators found a correlation between social environment and asthma symptoms and lung function. Asthma symptoms were greater among children who reported less family support and lived in worse neighborhoods; lung function also was poorer among children who reported less family support.

To determine possible reasons for these associations, the researchers performed statistical analyses of pathways linking family support and neighborhood problems to asthma symptoms and lung function. They found that family support and asthma outcomes were linked via inflammation, but not behaviors. That is, low levels of family support were associated with greater inflammation, and, in turn, greater inflammation was associated with poorer asthma outcomes. In contrast, family support did not appear to change children’s behaviors.

Neighborhood problems and asthma symptoms were linked through behavioral pathways, but not through inflammation. The more problematic neighborhoods were associated with greater rates of child smoking and exposure to smoke. In turn, smoking was associated with poorer asthma outcomes. In contrast, neighborhood characteristics did not appear to change children’s inflammatory profiles.

“Poor family relations may foster psychological experiences with direct physiologic consequences, whereas problematic neighborhoods may operate by providing role models for maladaptive behaviors,” wrote Dr. Chen.

Interestingly, peer group support had no significant effects on asthma symptoms or lung function. These findings suggest that among children with asthma, family and one’s neighborhood play a more important role in asthma morbidity than do peers.

Dr. Chen noted that the study group was small and that the cross-sectional design of the study precluded drawing a direct causal relationship, stressing that more research is necessary before drawing any definitive conclusions. If these findings are confirmed in future research, however, they could have important implications for asthma interventions. For example, interventions that target family interaction patterns may help improve children’s asthma by altering biological profiles. The neighborhood effects suggest the potential utility of making community-wide changes that could help shape the health behaviors of children with asthma.

“To test these implications, future research is needed that investigates the effects of experimental manipulations of social factors on childhood asthma morbidity,” said Dr. Chen.

Source: American Thoracic Society

Explore further: Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US tightens standards for soot pollution (Update)

Dec 14, 2012

(AP)—The Obama administration on Friday imposed a new air quality standard that reduces by 20 percent the maximum amount of soot released into the air from smokestacks, diesel trucks and other sources of ...

Experiences of migrant children: At home abroad

May 09, 2012

Schools, local councils and professionals need better guidance and training to work with migrant families from Eastern Europe and their children, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council ...

As air pollution from fracking rises, EPA to set rules

Apr 17, 2012

The rush to capture natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has led to giant compressor stations alongside backyard swing sets, drilling rigs in sight of front porches, and huge flares at gas wells alongside country roads.

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

8 hours ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.