Social, financial and medical pressures might contribute to the condition.
Growing up with a food allergy is tough: You have to watch what you eat, know how to react in an emergency, and deal with the reactions from other kids. Now, a new study suggests these and other factors may link to another issue: anxiety.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at 80 pediatric patients, specifically “predominantly low socioeconomic status minority children” aged four to twelve, in the New York City borough of the Bronx. In that group, some kids had food allergies and others did not. The study found that though 48 percent of the non-food allergy children reported having symptoms of anxiety, an even higher number of children from food allergy group showed signs of anxiety: 57 percent. The researchers believe these results show that food allergies could be linked to increased anxiety in kids, especially if it causes an additional financial strain.
“Management of food allergy can be expensive both in terms of food shopping, meal preparation, and the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors, which expire annually,” said lead author Renee Goodwin, PhD. “These demands could result in higher levels of anxiety for those with fewer financial resources and further heighten anxiety symptoms in children and their caregivers.” But Goodwin also pointed out that the difficulties in dealing with a food allergy go beyond the potential cost. “Management of a potentially life-threatening condition may be anxiety provoking, and some children may experience increased social anxiety about being ‘different’ from other children depending on their age and how food allergy is managed by adults in a particular setting,” she said. Goodwin also stressed the importance of education on food allergies in schools.
Interestingly, caregivers of these children were also asked about their anxiety symptoms, and yet, the study found that there was no “significant difference in anxiety or depression symptoms among caregivers of patients with and without food allergy.” Then again, once you’re an adult, you have a million other things to be anxious about.