Teenagers with asthma are more than twice as likely to have mental health problems as their peers, a national study has found. A survey of 12 to 25-year-olds commissioned by Asthma Australia also revealed that two-thirds had poorly controlled asthma, which often put them in hospital. The survey of 533 people by the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre found that more than half were likely to have a mental health issue, compared with one in four in the general population.
Many complained of feeling tired and restricted in their physical activity. Instead of trying to prevent asthma flare-ups, most were relying on relievers such as puffers to control their asthma. Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with one in 10 people affected. Asthma Australia chief executive Mark Brooke said complacency in taking appropriate medications was a big problem. “There is a common cycle where young people take preventer medication, they feel OK and then stop taking it, and then their asthma flares up,” he said.
In response to the findings, his group is developing resources to help GPs educate young people about how to prevent flare-ups. After a couple of stints in hospital, Darlington teenager Will Jackson is trying to control his asthma rather than relying on his puffer when he has trouble breathing. Only a fractured foot is stopping him from enjoying sport and skateboarding. “Ever since my last admission to hospital with asthma I’ve been much better handling it,” Will, 16, said. “I really don’t want to end up back there, or get scarred lungs, so I’m doing my best.”
This article first appeared in the West Australian, 20 January 2015.