Background Existing evidence on stress and asthma prevalence has disproportionately focused on pregnancy and postpregnancy early life stressors, largely ignoring the role of childhood adversity as a risk factor. Childhood adversity (neglect, stressful living conditions and maltreatment) may influence asthma prevalence through mechanisms on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.
Methods Data from the Center for Disease Control's (CDC's) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys were used to examine cross-sectional associations of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) with lifetime and current asthma prevalence. Information on childhood adversity was available from 84 786 adult respondents in 10 US states. Poisson regression models (with robust SE) were used to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) relating overall ACE score and dimensions of exposure ACE to asthma prevalence, adjusting for socioeconomic status.
Results Greater ACE was associated with a higher prevalence of asthma (adjusted PRcat 4=1.78 (95% CI 1.69 to 1.87), adjusted PRcat 1=1.21 (95% CI 1.16 to 1.27)). Reported experiences of sexual abuse (adjusted PR=1.48* (1.42 to 1.55)) and physical abuse (adjusted PR=1.38* (1.33 to 1.43)) were associated with a higher asthma prevalence. No clear socioeconomic gradient was noted, but those reporting lowest education and income levels reported high rates of asthma and adversity. Sensitivity analyses indicated that ACE exposures were interrelated.
Conclusions Report of childhood adversity predicts asthma prevalence among US adults. Frameworks for asthma prevention need to recognise and integrate aspects related to childhood adversity. Further investigation into specific time periods of exposure would provide meaningful inferences for interventions.
- Asthma Epidemiology
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