Mental-health screening may be an important part of asthma management, according to new research indicating that anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders are more than twice as prevalent in adults with asthma as in the general population. Psychological distress can exacerbate asthma symptoms and reduce quality of life.

After analyzing data from 186,738 adults, a research group found that the average annual prevalence of asthma was 7%, and the average prevalence of serious psychological distress (SPD) was 3%. But among adults with asthma, the prevalence of SPD was 7.5%.

Although reduced quality of life had already been linked with both the prevalence and onset of asthma, the investigators discovered that health-related quality of life decreased as SPD increased in all persons, regardless of whether or not they suffered from asthma.

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“The study demonstrates the importance of SPD as a marker of mental health among adults with asthma and emphasizes the necessity of identifying and treating psychological distress for every adult,” the researchers noted (Chest. 2010;137:609-616). “SPD is a powerful predictor of quality of life and has a synergistic effect with asthma on health status.”

It is recommended that efforts be made to reduce SPD among people with asthma as well as those with other chronic diseases.

Asthma treatment also made news with the FDA’s announcement that long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) should never be used alone in adults or children. According to an evaluation of clinical trials, LABA use increases risk of severe worsening of asthma symptoms. The FDA now believes these drugs should only be used in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid or other asthma controller medication and only for the shortest amount of time necessary to bring symptoms under control.