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Allergy and mental health

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) has a uniquely vast database of information gathered from a geographically-defined cohort living around Bristol, UK, spanning pregnancy and childhood over many years. It includes socioeconomic and psychometric as well as medical data, and is thus well-positioned to make observations linking physical and psychological well-being, in mothers and their children. Teyhan and colleagues linked maternal mental health, measured by standard questionnaire during pregnancy and at 8 years after birth, with reported ‘allergic’ symptoms (rash, wheeze) and mental well-being measures in the children at age 8 years (J Pediatr 2014;165:592–9). The negative relationship between these physical symptoms and psychological well-being has been established in earlier work. They confirmed that those with symptoms undoubtedly had poorer mental health, but was this cause or effect, and how did the mother's mental health influence this? They found an interesting discrepancy between wheeze and skin symptoms. Maternal anxiety and depression both before and after birth predicted rash, but not wheeze. Sub-dividing the children's type of psychological problems revealed that rash was more associated with ‘externalising’ (oppositional, hyperactive), and wheeze with ‘internalising’ (anxious, depressive). There are of course many potential confounding factors here, many …

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