Review of psychosocial stress and asthma: an integrated biopsychosocial approach

Thorax. 1998 Dec;53(12):1066-74. doi: 10.1136/thx.53.12.1066.


Environmental stressors may impact asthma morbidity through neuroimmunological mechanisms which are adversely impacted and/or buffered y social networks, social support, and psychological functioning. In addition, life stress may impact on health beliefs and behaviours that may affect asthma management. Whereas earlier psychosomatic models have supported a role for psychological stress in contributing to variable asthma morbidity among those with existing disease, a growing appreciation of the interactions between behavioural, neural, endocrine, and immune processes suggest a role for these psychosocial factors in the genesis of asthma as well. While a causal link between stress and asthma has not bee established, this review provides a framework in which we can begin to see links between these systems that might provide new insights to guide future explorations. The complexity of these interactions underscore the need for a multidisciplinary approach which combines the idea that the origin of asthma is purely psychogenic in nature with the antithetical consideration that the biological aspects are all important. These distinctions are artificial, and future research that synthesizes biological, psychological, sociocultural, and family parameters is urgently needed to further our understanding of the rising burden of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Endocrine System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology