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18-11-2013 | Respiratory | Article

Teenage bereavement linked to asthma hospitalization risk

Abstract

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medwireNews: Research shows that children who experience bereavement during late adolescence are at increased risk for asthma hospitalizations.

Xiaoqin Liu (Aarhus University, Denmark) and colleagues analyzed the data of 5,202,576 children born in Denmark or Sweden from 1977 to 2008, and 1973 to 2006, respectively. A total of 168,649 children experienced the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18 years and were assigned to the bereaved cohort.

The researchers found that bereaved children had a modestly but significantly increased risk for asthma hospitalization over a mean follow-up of 12.9 years. After adjusting for confounders, including birthweight, maternal social status, and family history of asthma, these children had a 10% greater risk for asthma hospitalization than children in the non-bereaved cohort.

The increased risk was driven by the association between bereavement and asthma hospitalization in children who lost a close relative between the ages of 14 and 17 years, who had a 54% greater risk compared with non-bereaved children. By contrast, there was no significant association between bereavement and asthma hospitalization in any other age group.

Writing in PLoS One, Liu et al say that their findings could be related to alteration of the immune system due to psychologic stress or to a lowering of the threshold for hospitalization in bereaved children.

Additionally, in a subgroup analysis of the Danish cohort, they found that bereaved children were 13% less likely to take asthmatic medication than non-bereaved children, which could indicate that undertreatment led to an increased risk for hospitalization.

The authors also suggest that smoking could be associated both with premature parental death and childhood asthma, although they were unable to explore this in the study.

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter

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