Living with food allergies is hard enough. Now researchers suggest there is a link between food allergies and childhood anxiety and depression.
More and more, we hear the tragic stories of children dying from allergic reactions, and it’s no surprise that children with food allergies (and their parents) are anxious about a reaction bringing serious injury to them.
Recent research suggests that children who suffer from serious food allergies, particularly those who are from lower socioeconomic situations, are at risk to have anxiety issues. More, they are also at greater risk for depression later in life.
The study comes from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and looked at 80 children who were four to twelve years old. The children were from the Bronx in New York. Some of the children in the study had food allergies, while others didn’t, and the researchers found that almost 60% of those with allergies complained of symptoms that mirrored anxiety. (That’s compared to less than half of the children with no allergies saying they had any anxiety symptoms.)
Researchers believe part of the worry is the basic cost of managing the allergy — as food costs are rising, foods that are allergen friendly come at a greater cost. Additionally, epinephrine auto-injectors, or life-saving epi-pens, are costly, and children are often aware of the great cost their allergy brings to their family. Sadly, researchers believe that children are worried about their parents being able to afford to care for them and their condition.
And as sad as that is, it’s even sadder when you look at the rest of the research. Lead author, Dr. Renee Goodwin, says that though much more research needs to happen to better establish the relationship between food allergies and mental health, the results of this study suggest that this childhood anxiety may very possibly lead to those children facing depression later in life.
Dr. Goodwin believes that while that research continues to happen, we need to work now to give better interventions for children who are allergy-prone, helping them now as they struggle with anxiety, as well as working to prevent them from suffering depression as they age.