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Study links adverse childhood experiences to pediatric asthma

January 28, 2017

Robyn Wing, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, recently led a study that found children who were exposed to an adverse childhood experience (ACE) were 28 percent more likely to develop asthma. The rate of asthma occurrence further increased in children with each additional ACE exposure. The study, recently published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, suggests that psychosocial factors may contribute to pediatric asthma.

“Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, currently affecting 7 million, or 9.5 percent, of children in the U.S.,” said Wing. “The biological risk factors for asthma onset and severity, such as genetics, allergens, tobacco smoke, air pollution and respiratory infections, have been well established by previous studies. But, psychosocial factors, such as stress, which we know can be physically harmful, are now being examined as a risk factor for asthma in children.”
Wing’s team analyzed data from nearly 100,000 children and teens in the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health and compared parent or guardian reports of a child having asthma to whether a child had experienced an ACE at home. An ACE is classified as whether a child has ever:

  • Lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated while child was present.
  • Lived with a parent or guardian who died.
  • Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison while child was present.
  • Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple of weeks.
  • Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs.
  • Saw or heard parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.

Children exposed to one ACE had a 28 percent increase in reported asthma compared to those with no ACEs. These rates increase with each additional ACE, with children exposed to four ACEs having a 73 percent increase in reported asthma.



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