Depression in Asthma: Prevalence and Clinical Implications

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Background: Asthma and depression are both common illnesses. Data suggest that the prevalence of asthma and asthma-related morbidity and mortality has increased in the past 2 decades. Asthma has long been considered an illness in which mood and emotions contribute to symptom exacerbation. Therefore, we reviewed the recent literature on depression in persons with asthma.

Data Sources: The MEDLINE (1966-1999) and PSYCHINFO (1967-1999) databases were used to find English-language articles on asthma and depression. Search terms included asthma, depression, dysthymia, and mood.

Data Synthesis: This literature suggests depressive symptoms are more common in asthma patients than in the general population and perhaps even more common than in some other general medical conditions. Depression may be associated with asthma morbidity and mortality. Limited data suggest the older tricyclic antidepressants may improve both depression and asthma symptoms. However, no studies have examined the use of second-generation antidepressants in asthma patients.

Conclusion: Depressive symptoms are common in asthma patients. However, the prevalence of depressive disorders in this population is not well determined. Future studies should focus on determining the prevalence of major depressive disorder in this population and the effect of antidepressants on mood and asthma symptoms.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2000;2(5):153-158