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Study Ties Fear of Job Loss to Higher Asthma Risk

First Posted: Sep 24, 2014 03:34 AM EDT

Fear of losing job and work-related stress increase asthma risk, a new study states.

Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airway that makes breathing difficult. It is estimated that 34 million people in the United States are affected with Asthma; but, most of the time it is not clear why some people develop asthma and others don't. This condition can happen to anyone without any risk factors in play. Some of the risk factors for asthma surprise the health experts. 

One such surprising risk factor highlighted in the new study is the fear of job loss/work related stress. This study supports the previous epidemiological studies that represent a strong association between asthma and stress, mainly work related stress.

The researchers based their finding on the evaluation of 7000 working adults who were a part of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study in 2009-2011, where questions about asthma were asked.

It was an annual representative survey of the German population that covered a period of severe economic downturn - which began in 2008 - across Europe. In 2009, the respondents were asked about their chances of losing their job over the next two years. The response was graded in 10 percent increments from 0-100 percent and was further divided into high versus low or no threat. A cut off point of 50 percent was used or greater likelihood of unemployment versus a less than 50 percent probability.

They observed that between 2009 and 2011, there were nearly 105 new cases of asthma diagnosed among the respondents in which half of them were women.

The respondents, who felt that their risk of losing job over the next two years was high, were more likely to be younger, had lower level of education, lower monthly income and were more likely to remain single as compared to those who felt their risk of losing their job was low or non-existent.

The respondents who didn't feel their tenure was secure were more likely to work on permanent contracts and had higher odds of being diagnosed with depression. After considering several sociodemographic factors, depression and lifestyle they noticed that the risk of asthma increased with increasing job insecurity. Every 25 percent increase in fear of job loss, the risk of asthma increased by 24 percent. Those who assume they were very likely to lose their job, the risk of asthma increased by 60 percent.

But, the researchers said their results are "consistent with epidemiological studies, which have shown that psychological stress in particular work related stress, may be risk factors for new onset asthma. Our findings may also provide a possible explanation for the increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms during the recent economic crisis in the U.K."

The finding was documented in the British Medical Journal.

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