Link found between food allergies and childhood anxiety

Food allergies are increasingly common among youth in the United States, with estimates as high as 8 percent of the population having food allergies.
By Amy Wallace   |   June 29, 2017 at 2:46 PM
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June 29 (UPI) -- Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have found a link between food allergies and an increase in childhood anxiety.

"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," Renee Goodwin, researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, said in a press release. "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."

The study, by researchers at Columbia University in collaboration with Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, included 80 pediatric patients age 4 to 12 with and without diagnosed food allergies and their caregivers from urban pediatric outpatient clinics in the Bronx.

Of the children with a food allergy, 57 percent reported symptoms of anxiety compared to 48 percent without food allergies. About 48 percent of the children had symptoms of depression regardless of food allergy diagnosis.

Food allergies were not linked to symptoms of childhood depression or with symptoms of depression and anxiety among caregivers.

"There are a number of possible explanations for the relationship found between food allergy diagnosis and increased social anxiety issues in this sample of pediatric patients," Goodwin said. "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."

The study was published in the June edition of The Journal of Pediatrics.

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