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20-06-2013 | Respiratory | Article

Recession has second-hand consequences for children with asthma


Free abstract

medwireNews: Data from the US recession period suggest that during times of economic hardship, unemployment becomes a stronger determinant of smoking by parents of children with asthma.

Tracy Jackson (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA) and colleagues found that in 2010 - 2 years after the USA had entered one of its longest and most severe recessions - unemployment became a predictor for parental smoking where it had not been in the run up to the recession in 2008.

The findings "provide new empirical evidence on the relation between parents' unemployment status and parental smoking when a child in the home has asthma, a topic that has not been previously studied," they say.

In data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, the authors found that rates of smoking among 4244 parents of children (aged 2-17 years) with asthma in 2008, and 3601 in 2010, were similar at 20.0% and 17.8%, respectively.

However, while unemployment was not significantly associated with parental smoking in 2008, it increased the odds for parental smoking 1.80-fold in 2010. Similarly, dissatisfaction with life was associated with a 2.06-fold increased odds for parental smoking in 2010, but did not show a significant association in the earlier survey.

Other covariates remained significant during both study years; for example, low educational attainment, reporting frequent mental distress, not being married , and binge drinking were all associated with parental smoking.

The authors say that the reasons why a parent of a child with asthma is more likely to smoke in response to unemployment are "complex." They suggest that smoking may serve as an antidepressant for parents who experience stress and strain from caring for a child with a chronic condition, something which could be exacerbated by unemployment and financial worries.

"Although there are many tobacco control policies in place at the federal and state levels to reduce adult's smoking rates, the effectiveness of these policies has not been evaluated for parents of a child with asthma or for this population during a severe and prolonged economic recession," the authors write in the Journal of Asthma.

"By drawing attention to a specific group of smokers, we hope more careful thought is given to determine which interventions are most effective for decreasing parental smoking and improving health outcomes of children with asthma in these homes."

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

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter

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