Background: Numerous studies have shown an association between asthma and mental disorders. While elevated rates of asthma have been noted among psychiatric patients with anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, several studies have found elevated rates of mental disorders among asthma patients. Such studies, however, have generally relied upon questionnaires and assessment by non-specialist physicians to diagnose mental disorders and asthma.
Objectives: To examine a possible association between asthma and psychiatric diagnoses in Israeli military recruits and soldiers.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study we compared the prevalence of mental diagnoses in asthmatic recruits and soldiers to that in non-asthmatic recruits and soldiers. A total of 195,903 recruits and soldiers were examined by Israel Defense Forces recruiting offices and fitness boards. Diagnoses of asthma were based on a pulmonologist's diagnosis, including spirometry at rest and exercise testing as indicated; diagnoses of mental disorders were based on examination by a psychiatrist.
Results: The prevalence of asthma was found to be 7.8% (current) and 9.8% (lifetime). The prevalence of mental disorders was 13.4%. Current asthma was associated with an increased likelihood of any mental disorder (OR = 1.20, 95% CI = 1.15–1.26), and specifically with mood and anxiety disorders (1.31, 1.19–1.46), introvert personality disorders (1.20, 95% 1.12–1.28) and adjustment disorder (1.43, 1.26–1.62). Lifetime asthma was associated with an increased likelihood of the same disorders, but the association was not as powerful.
Conclusions: The results validate the previously documented association between asthma and mental disorders, using a sample of unprecedented size and improved methodology. A multidisciplinary approach to asthma that incorporates mental health professionals in the treatment of poorly controlled asthma and perhaps of asthma in general is recommended.