Asthma and Depression: It's Not Just in Your Head

It's normal to feel sad every once in a while, but if you have asthma and you find yourself struggling with depression on a regular basis, you could be one of the many people who find that these two conditions are difficult to separate.

Until recently it was thought to be a coincidence when asthma and depression co-existed, but researchers from the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research in Israel have now determined that a strong link exists between asthma and depression. In fact, the scientists confirmed that the rates of depression are higher among asthmatics than among the general public. What they don't know for sure, though, is which condition comes first or how one drives the other.

Regardless of the order for cause and effect, the researchers identified that people who are depressed are at increased likelihood to make poor health and lifestyle choices, which then puts them at an increased risk for experiencing poor asthma control. This means that regardless of how the depression and asthma relationship occurs, it causes a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.

Studying Asthma and Depression

To come to these conclusions, the Israeli scientists looked at close to 10,000 adults and identified that those who had any form of depression were less likely to get enough sleep or to engage in regular exercise. In addition, people with signs of depression were also more likely to smoke. All of these factors can be related to a worsening of asthma symptoms and a lower quality of health overall, according to the findings, which appeared in the General Hospital Psychiatry journal in October 2011. Yet despite the apparent overlap between the two conditions, the medical community says the relationship isn't conclusive and more research needs to be done to better understand the asthma and depression link and determine how to address it more effectively.

Breaking the Connection

If you think that your asthma could be bringing you down, or that a depressed state of mind could be threatening your asthma control and health status, it's important to see your doctor and strategize how to address your mood issues as part of your overall asthma action plan. You'll also need to make it a priority to incorporate healthy lifestyle practices including getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis, exercising often, and also kicking the habit of smoking.

Keep in mind that you don't have to have a severe form of depression to experience negative asthma effects. Even mild mood symptoms can worsen asthma and should be addressed to help you feel better, both for your physical and mental health.




"Depressive Symptoms May Make Asthma Control More Difficult." Health Behavior News Service. Center for Advancing Health, 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011.

Goral, A., et al. "Depressive Symptoms, Risk Factors and Sleep in Asthma: Results from a National Israeli Health Survey." General Hospital Psychiatry (20 Oct. 2011). Web. 11 Nov. 2011.