Research indicates that people with allergies exhibit a higher incidence of mental health conditions than other people.
A new study has analyzed UK Biobank data to investigate the possibility of a causal relationship between allergies and mental health conditions.
The findings confirm a correlation but find no evidence that one type of health issue causes the other.
Earlier research has shown that people with allergies are more likely to have at least one mental health condition. There is an elevated incidence of depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety among people with atopic dermatitis (AD), for example. Asthma and allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever,” have been linked with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.
A new study of data from the UK Biobank confirms the correlation between allergies and mental health. However, correlation does not imply causation, and the study also finds it unlikely that allergies cause mental health conditions or vice versa.
The researchers used Mendelian randomizationTrusted Source to investigate possible gene-level causal relationships between mental health disorders and allergies in general — as well as asthma, AD, and hay fever, specifically.
These mental health conditions included depression, major depressive disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and neuroticism. The researchers concluded, “We did not find evidence of causal effects between allergic disease genetic risk and mental health.”
Senior study author Dr. Hannah Sallis, a senior research associate in genetic epidemiology at Bristol Medical School, explains that the study ultimately utilized a variety of methodologies and data to reach its conclusions. “This helps to strengthen our confidence in the findings. Establishing whether allergic disease causes mental health problems, or vice versa, is important to ensure that resources and treatment strategies are targeted appropriately.”
The study has been published in the journal Clinical and Experimental AllergyTrusted Source.
The team analyzed data in the in the UK Biobank from individuals aged 37–73 years. However, all were of European ethnicity, so the study’s results may not apply to everyone.
The authors acknowledge another limitation, that “Phenotypic analyses were restricted to older adults, so findings may not generalize to younger populations.”
Study does not rule out causal connection
While this study only found weak, statistically insignificant indications of causal relationships, this does not rule them out entirely. According to lead study author Dr. Ashley Budu-Aggrey, also a senior research associate at Bristol Medical School:
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