Objective: To determine the screen-positive prevalence of anxiety disorders and depression among pediatric asthma patients in an inner-city asthma clinic and to investigate the association between probable diagnoses of anxiety disorders and depression and medical service use among inner-city pediatric asthma patients.
Method: In this pilot study, a consecutive sample of pediatric asthma patients aged 5-11 in the waiting room of an inner-city asthma clinic was screened for mental disorders using the DISC Predictive Scales (DPS), which produces probable DSM-IV diagnoses. In addition, data on health service use for asthma were collected. Statistical analyses were performed to examine the relationship between probable anxiety disorders and depression and health service use for asthma among pediatric asthma patients.
Results: Approximately one in four (25.7%) pediatric asthma patients in an inner-city asthma clinic met criteria for a probable diagnosis of current anxiety disorders or depression (past 4-week prevalence). Specifically, childhood separation anxiety disorder was common among 8.1%, panic among 14.9%, generalized anxiety disorder among 4.1%, agoraphobia among 5.4%, and 2.7% had depression. Having more than one anxiety disorder or depression diagnosis was associated with higher levels of inpatient and outpatient medical services, compared with patients who were negative on screening for anxiety or depressive disorders, although differences failed to reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: These findings are the first to provide preliminary evidence suggesting that mental health problems are common among pediatric asthma patients in an inner-city clinic. The results also suggest that mental health problems in pediatric asthma patients may be associated with elevated levels of medical service use for asthma. Replication of this pilot study is needed with a larger sample, more precise diagnostic methodology, and a comparison group with chronic medical illness.