RESEARCH from Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute has found young adults with asthma have higher rates of smoking and alcohol use compared to non-asthmatics.
The “Lifestyle of Young Australian Adults with Asthma” study looked at 2619 adults aged between 18 to 29 years to look at whether their asthma status affected a range of their lifestyle choices.
The study gathered data from the Australian National Health Survey database to find the levels of physical activity, alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption among three different groups of people.
Looking at the lifestyle of non-asthmatics, those with a history of the condition but no symptoms for the last 12 months, and people who currently have the condition, researchers gained insight into their behaviour.
While 58 per cent of the non-asthmatic participants were non-smokers only 47.8 per cent of those with classed as asthmatics were non-smokers.
Compared to non-asthmatics, asthmatics were almost twice as likely to be high-risk drinkers but here were more likely to achieve the dietary recommendation for vegetable intake.
One of the study’s authors Dr Wenbin Liang says he was not surprised at the results due to the stress that the condition can cause and the links between stress and substance abuse.
Dr Wenbin Liang says, “I think that conditions and symptoms of asthma induce chronic stress”.
“Repeated acute stress together with corticosteroid therapy may lead to high levels of distress and development of anxiety and affective disorders.”
“[Thus people affected] may be unable to control themselves from regular harmful substance use,” he says.
Physical activity rates in asthmatics were shown to be similar to that of the general population which Dr Liang says is one of the positive outcomes of current asthma education initiatives.
Dr Liang says future treatments and asthma education may need to look at assisting sufferers early so they can make safe lifestyle choices.
“Psychological training programs may be developed to improve the mental strength among children and young people with chronic asthma,” he says.
“This may help to reduce their risk of substance abuse.”
Asthma has a large social impact in Australia with over 2 million people having the condition and it accounts for over one per cent of annual health spending.