Objective: There is growing epidemiological literature focusing on the bidirectional association between psychosocial factors and atopic disorders, but no efforts to quantify the relationship systematically have been published.
Methods: We searched Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and PubMed up to June 2007. The studies included were prospective cohort studies investigating the influence of psychosocial factors on atopic disorders and the effect of atopic disorders on mental health. Two investigators independently extracted data and determined study quality.
Results: There were 43 studies (in 22 articles), of which 34 evaluated the effect of psychosocial factors on atopic disorders and 9 evaluated the effect of atopic disorders on mental health. The major atopic disease assessed in these studies was asthma (90.7%) with allergic rhinitis, 4.7%; atopic dermatitis, 2.3%; and food allergies, 2.3%. The overall meta-analysis exhibited a positive association between psychosocial factors and future atopic disorder (correlation coefficient (r) as combined size effect .024; 95% confidence interval, 0.014-0.035; p < .001) as well as between atopic disorders and future poor mental health (r = .044, 95% confidence interval, 0.021-0.067, p < .001). More notably, the subgroup meta-analysis on the healthy and atopic disorder populations showed psychosocial factors had both an etiological and prognostic effect on atopic disorders.
Conclusions: The current review revealed a robust relationship between psychosocial factors and atopic disorders. This supports the use of psychological in addition to conventional physical and pharmacological interventions, in the successful prevention and management of atopic disorders.