Are allergies linked to anxiety and depression?

<p>Researchers from Germany and Switzerland have recently investigated the possible associations between conditions relating to mental health, such as depression and anxiety, and the presence of different types of allergy. Their findings, they say, should prompt scientists to pay more attention to these links.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the [United States],” leading to healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion each year.

Moreover, the CDC note that more than 50 million people in the U.S. have an allergy. Across Europe, about 150 million people have an allergy, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

 

Some research has suggested that certain allergic conditions can affect a person’s mental health. For instance, one study that Medical News Today covered last year found that having asthmaallergic rhinitis, or atopic dermatitis (eczema) could increase a person’s risk of developing a mental illness.

Now, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany have collaborated with investigators from other German and Swiss institutions to investigate this association further. The team recruited 1,782 participants and aimed to find out if there were any links between mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and different types of allergy.

The study participants were between the ages of 39 and 88 years, with 61 years being the average age, and they all lived in the Augsburg area of Germany.

For their study, the findings of which appear in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, the researchers only took into account cases of self-reported type 1 allergies.

These are allergies that cause an immediate reaction following exposure to the allergen, and they can result in symptoms of varying severity. They range from eczema and hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, to conjunctivitis and anaphylaxis.

Seasonal allergies tied to anxiety

In the study, the investigators differentiated between participants according to their type of allergy (or lack thereof), splitting them into four distinct groups:

  1. allergy-free
  2. with seasonal allergies, such as those relating to pollen
  3. with perennial (year-long) allergies, such as allergies to animal hair
  4. with other allergies, including allergies to foods and insect stings

Within the entire cohort, 27.4% of the individuals reported having an allergy. More specifically, 7.7% of participants said that they had a perennial allergy, 6.1% had a seasonal allergy, and 13.6% reported having another type of allergy.

After asking the participants additional questions about their mental health — focusing on markers of depression, generalized anxiety disorders, and stress — the researchers concluded that individuals who lived with generalized anxiety also tended to have seasonal allergies.

This association was not present in people with perennial allergies. However, the study showed that individuals with year-long allergies were more likely to have depression instead.</p>